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Exercise and Depression

The Endorphin Rush and Pain Relief: How Exercise Can Help Depression

Depression can weigh heavily on many people. Exercise is an often underutilized treatment for depression. When depressed, a person will tend to sit around and wallow in a sense of hopelessness that will often increase the depression. Research has shown that a lot of depressed people benefit immensely from frequent exercise and activity.

Exercise and Depression

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise doesn't have to be a solo endeavor like running on a treadmill. There are plenty of exercises that can be done in a group. Those with depression can benefit from group activities and a sense of camaraderie and support. The gym is a great place to meet people and participate in an activity with others. There are dance classes, spin classes, yoga, and Pilates. Kickboxing is a great sport that can give a person a sense of empowerment along with the group support.


Endorphins are internally produced pain relievers produced by the pituitary gland. Exercise is one of the activities that trigger their release. They rival opiates in their ability to soothe and reduce pain. This is often as helpful for depression as the elevation of a sense of joy.

People who exercise often find that they are elated and filled with joy after exercise. Many researchers have reported that it's moderate intensity workouts and exercise that has the most benefit and produces more of the release in chemicals than high or low intensity. This means that slow, aerobic type exercise for 20 to 30 minutes will alter an exerciser's mood with the release of those natural chemicals.


The rush from frequent exercise can reduce stress, increase a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. These can be a byproduct from the sense of well-being that is felt after frequent exercise and increased chemical release. A person who exercises every day for at least 30 minutes will also improve their sleep pattern. Exercise strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, and increases energy levels.

A person who sees an increase in muscle tone, a reduction of body fat, and improved strength will feel better about themselves overall. There are numerous benefits to frequent exercise aside from endorphin release that should motivate a person with depression to find a way to incorporate exercise into their daily life.

Consult a Doctor

Some people with depression have a medical reason. They are in pain, sick, or have other problems that might make medication a likely source of help. Anyone with depression should speak to their doctor about a proper exercise plan for their circumstances.

There are many exercises that can be adapted for the person's fitness level. Biking, walking, and aerobics can be adjusted for fitness level. Overexertion will have a negative effect on endorphins. The exercise shouldn't bring on exhaustion. A doctor will help recommend some beneficial activities. It could be something as stress-free as gardening or swimming, too. The depression sufferer should find an activity that brings them joy. They can switch every day until they find one they like too.