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Can exercise help with depression?


We’re always being told that we should exercise more, with many studies claiming that 150 minutes of exercise each week can improve your mental wellbeing. However, when you’re feeling depressed, you may feel like you have little energy, making exercise unappealing.

Before you hire a local personal trainer, you might want to know how much a personal trainer will cost and you want to be sure that exercise really does help to alleviate depression.

An image of a gym
Photo by Javier Santos Guzmán on Unsplash

Does exercise help to boost your mood?

The NHS says that regular exercise can help to boost your mood if you have depression, and that it’s especially useful for people suffering from mild to moderate depression. In fact, some doctors even prescribe exercise to those suffering from low mood.

Sports nutrition brand, MyProtein, conducted a survey in 2020 to determine the exact effect that exercise has on mental wellbeing. 89% of those surveyed believed that exercise benefitted their mental health, with a further 10% claiming that exercise helped to boost their mood occasionally. So that’s 99% of respondents who believed their mental health was positively impacted by exercise at least sometimes.

How does exercise help with depression?

Exercise causes the body to release endorphins – the body’s feel-good hormone. This hormone helps to enhance your sense of wellbeing, leaving you feeling good.

Many people also find that their mind is taken away from their worries while they’re exercising, helping to break the cycle of negative thoughts which may be feeding their depression or anxiety.

Aside from the physical benefits of exercise, it can also help you to gain confidence, improve your social interaction and give you a new coping strategy for stressful situations or difficult times in your life.

How often should you exercise to help with depression?

It is recommended that all adults aim for around 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. This helps your body to remain healthy whilst promoting your mental wellbeing. However, if you haven’t exercised for a while, you’ll need to start gradually and slowly build up your levels of activity.

If you’re struggling with depression, 150 minutes may feel unachievable. Try to start with a brisk 10-minute walk to help to clear your mind and promote relaxation. You can then slowly build up to longer durations of activity and higher intensity exercises.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that patients suffering with mild to moderate depression should exercise three times a week, for 45-60 minutes at a time.

What types of exercise are best for improving depression?

MyProtein continued their research by studying the types of exercise that boosted mental wellbeing. They found that weight training was most effective in improving mental health, followed by running, jogging, walking and gym cardio.

Ultimately, the type of exercise that you do will depend on your individual interests and capabilities. Some people may love dancing and find that Zumba is particularly helpful in boosting their mood, whilst others may prefer a long walk in the countryside or a game of football with friends.

You may need to try several different types of physical activity before you find one that you love and want to continue. A personal trainer can help you to do this, offering different activities and routines for you to try until you find a strategy that works for you.