Exercise and Depression

Last Editorial Review: 11/28/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

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 Exercise Program?

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 routine:

  • 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 exercise?
  • What goals do I have in mind? (For example, weight loss, strengthening muscles, or improving flexibility or mood enhancement)

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 During Exercise?

Never ignore pain. If you experience pain, rest. You may cause stress and damage to your joints and muscles if you continue exercising.

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.

Edited by Cynthia Haines, MD, WebMD, July 2005.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005

© 1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Depression is a(n) __________ . See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors