Exercise and Depression
What are the Benefits of Exercise?
Regular exercise has been proven to:
Exercise also has these health benefits:
- Strengthens the heart
- Makes the body better able to use oxygen
- Builds energy levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves muscle tone and strength
- Strengthens and builds bones
- Helps reduce body fat
- Makes you look fit and healthy
Exercise and Depression: What's the Link?
Research has shown that exercise is an effective, but often
underused, treatment for mild to moderate depression.
What Types of Exercise Treat Depression?
It appears that any form of exercise can help depression.
Do I Need to See My Healthcare Provider Before Starting an
Most people can begin an exercise program without checking
with their healthcare providers. However, people with a medical
condition (such as diabetes or heart disease) and people who
have not exercised much should check with their healthcare
provider before starting any exercise program.
How Can I Begin Planning My Exercise Routine?
Here are some questions you can think about before choosing a
- What physical activities do I enjoy?
- Do I prefer group or individual activities?
- What programs best fit my schedule?
- Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of
- What goals do I have in mind? (For example, weight loss,
strengthening muscles, or improving flexibility or mood
How Often Should I Exercise?
To get the most benefit, you should exercise at least 20 to
30 minutes, three times a week. Current studies suggest that
four or five times a week is best. If you are a beginner,
exercise for 20 minutes and build up to 30 minutes.
How Do I Get Started?
When starting out, you should plan a routine that is easy to
follow and maintain. As the program becomes more routine, you
can vary your exercise times and activities.
- Choose an activity you enjoy. Exercising should be
fun, not a chore.
- Schedule regular exercise into your daily routine.
Add a variety of exercises so that you don't get bored. Look into scheduled
exercise classes at your local community center.
- Exercise does not have to put a strain on your
wallet. Avoid buying expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you
are certain you will use them regularly.
- Stick with it. If you exercise regularly, it will soon
become part of your lifestyle.
What Should I Do If I Feel Pain
Never ignore pain. If you experience pain, rest. You may
cause stress and damage to your joints and muscles if you
If you still feel pain two hours after exercising, you have
done too much and need to decrease your activity level. Some
mild soreness after exercise is normal. If pain persists or is
severe, or you suspect you have injured yourself, contact your
doctor right away.
Reviewed by the doctors at
The Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Cynthia Haines, MD, WebMD, July 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic
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Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Editorial Review: 11/28/2005