The Best Exercises for Depression Treatment

April 5, 2018 Michelle Sedas

What are the best exercises for depression? Can you really do something wrong when you exercise for depression? Visit HealthyPlace and learn the three best exercises for depression and mood.

Why should you try exercises for depression treatment? Exercise has been widely known to help treat depression. Not only does it release feel-good endorphins, it gives structure to our days as well as distracts us from our depressed thoughts. In this post, you'll find the best exercises for depression treatment.

Top 3 Exercises for Depression and Mood

  1. Running

This aerobic activity gets a great deal of attention in helping to treat depression. There is a reason we’ve all heard of the "runner’s high." It is thought that running releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins to help improve mood. Meeting running goals also gives the runner confidence, which can help counteract feelings of depression. Yet, there are other exercises for depression treatment in addition to running.

  1. Strength Training

While running gets the lion’s share of attention for helping to treat depression – a doctor even told me that I needed to run, not lift weights, as an exercise for depression – I’ve found that weight lifting has a tremendous effect on my mood.

There are research-based findings to back up what I’ve intuitively known all along: strength training is one of the great exercises for depression treatment. In a study, comparing running and weight lifting, results indicated that no significant differences between exercise groups were found, and improvements were reasonably well-maintained over time.1 Another study showed that 80 percent of older adults with depression experienced a significant reduction in symptoms after a 10-week resistance training program.2

Every time I take a break from working out with weights and then resume again, I’m always left with the same thought: why did I ever stop? The feeling I get after lifting weights, especially after an intense workout, can often be described as euphoric.

  1. Yoga

As much as I love lifting weights, yoga is currently my go-to exercise for my depression. Not only do the physical movements get my body moving which puts me in a better mood, but the mindful breathing that accompanies yoga helps to put me in a calm state of mind.

Studies have shown that yoga is a good exercise for depression treatment.3 A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry even found that Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing-based yoga, improved symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who were not responding to antidepressants (Depression Treatment for Hard-to-Treat Depression).4

While I’ve found these to be the top three exercises for depression, rest assured that engaging in any sustained physical activity will likely improve your mood.

Please check out my video below on green space exercises for depression.

1. Ossip-Klein, DJ, Effects of running or weight lifting on self-concept in clinically depressed women. NCBI, Accessed April 4, 2018.
2. Singh, NA, A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. NCBI, Accessed April 4, 2018.
3. Whiteman, Honor, Yoga can help to treat depression, studies show. Medical News Today, Accessed April 4, 2018.
4. Sharma, Anup, A Breathing-Based Meditation Intervention for Patients With Major Depressive Disorder Following Inadequate Response to Antidepressants: A Randomized Pilot Study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Accessed April 4, 2018.

APA Reference
Sedas, M. (2018, April 5). The Best Exercises for Depression Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Michelle Sedas

Michelle is a wife and a mother of two children. She is the author of two books and the coauthor of a third. Her book, Welcome The Rain, will inspire you to see beyond life's storms. Find Michelle on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and her personal blog.

j. hall
October, 3 2018 at 10:19 pm

I have been severely depressed for nearly thirty years. I know I'm terribly out of shape so why would I want to run?? I am of normal weight and blood pressure, but I wouldn't make it to the corner before I was out of breath and wanting to stop. Talk about self-defeating.

ellen Schoenberg
October, 3 2018 at 10:46 am

what is the best exercise for an 89 year old woman in relatively good health

April, 7 2018 at 3:03 pm

Exercise just helps. My days are always better on days where I had exercise that morning. Even overweight folks can benefit with simple walking or even taking up swimming. A person should always start simple and allow progress to happen slowly over time. Jogging, walking, and hiking just happen to be my favorite forms of exercise.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 18 2018 at 8:16 pm

Hello John,
Thank you for your comment. :) Yes, starting simple is great advice. Thank you!
Michelle Sedas

April, 5 2018 at 7:46 am

I feel better since I started exercises. My mood has improved and I lost my weight a little. I should have started exercises long time ago.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 18 2018 at 8:16 pm

Hi Julia,
I'm so happy to hear this. Thank you for your comment.
--Michelle Sedas

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