Does Exercise Help Relieve Depression

Physical activity can have an effect on depression and other psychological or mental conditions. Depression is a psychological condition that affects people worldwide. Depression can come from multiple things. These include past or current situations such as a death of a family member or loved one, a traumatic event, a relationship, your lack of income, or other possible situations. Here we try to answer the question does exercise help depression ? 

Situational Depression

Situational depression could come from only one, or multiple situations.. Different individuals may deal with specific issues in different ways. This could be the difference in developing depression or not. One person could see a situation as discouraging and depressing. The other person may be able to control their emotions.

Emotions are your reaction to the situation. How you handle your feelings will determine your level of depression. If you are able to deal with it within a short period,  it would be short term depression. Unlike chronic depression, short term depression does not affect you as severely. Chronic depression can actually make up part of your personality if allowed.

With short term depression, you’re are usually able to accept the situation. When you cant express your feelings, you are keeping it to yourself. This can make the situation much worse. The effects the exercise has on depression are very positive. It may be a good tool to use for this.

Chronic Depression

Chronic depression is when you are not able to release your feelings. You try to deal with it yourself. It is mentally and even physically unhealthy. The sooner that it is dealt with, the better you are. This includes emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Many people use food to deal with emotions.

This can have affects such as weight gain. If you can control the overeating, you decrease these chances of weight gain. If you allow yourself to continue and become overweight, this may require more help depending on the severity. Overcoming depression and its side affects will require speaking with a psycholigist or counselor. Overcoming a depressed state gives you a new outlook on life allowing a healthier lifestyle.

Most situations you have no control over, but some you do. An example may be someone dying of a heart attack. Things such as sexual or physical abuse that happens at a younger age, you would have no control over. Later on though, these type of situations can be dealt with as a part of the healing process.

Depression is only part of a five step process. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As stated before, there are many ways that you may deal with the depression. This includes smoking, drinking which could lead to abuse, or even over eating. There are many medical treatments for depression. Although these medications are effective, activity is also an important factor in decreasing the risk of depression. Adding exercise and activities to current treatments will also help in the treatment.

Risk factors and treatments

There are numerous factors concerning treatments for depression. Here we look at using physical activity and exercise as a tool in decreasing symptoms of the development of depression. Using it as a treatment is also covered. Although exercise may not be an actual treatment by its self for depression, it’s good to use it as a therapy when combined with medications. (9). Although physical activity has been shown to be as effective as anti depressants, some doctors still question this (1). The reason for this is unknown, but it could concern the financial aspects. If exercise was used more, less medication would be needed. This may decrease pharmacy sales. Exercise may be used to decrease the symptoms and risks of developing depression.  It may also slow its progression. Factors of developing depression can include your age (5), living environment, current level of activity or life experiences.

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Activity level.

The effects exercise has on depression includes decreasing the risk of developing depression. It can also decreases ones level of depression. One thing that you must consider is ones level of depression. Many times those that already have depression, have a difficult time using physical activity for treatment. It is easier for someone who is only at risk for depression to use this therapy (7).

Exercise and physical activity can be used as tools to treat depression. It may have more of an effect on decrease the risk of developing depression though. Activities include those that are aerobic such as running, walking, or swimming, or anaerobic activities using resistance training.

In one study, 7300 people were looked at. A questionnaire was used to measure their current level of symptoms of depression. This included mild, moderate, and major levels. The affects of anaerobic exercise on the risk of developing depression was observed. Women had a higher chance of developing depression than men. Results showed that anaerobic activity is inversely related to the symptoms of developing depression. (8) 

Activities such as yoga can also be used (11). It has even been shown that when someone exercises,any grudges they may hold will decrease. It will also increase their the level of ability to forgive someone. (15). This can help relieve any depression you may have. The level of intensity of the activity can also affect the development of depression (14). Work is a big stressor that affects people. An increase in mental stress could lead to depressive symptoms.

In one study twenty-nine thousand employees with no previous diagnosis of a mental condition were followed for nine years. The level of intensity of activity or exercise was looked at using a questionnaire.  Moderate activity, or moderate and vigorous activity decreased the symptoms of developing depression the most (12).

Other activities to use as a therapy for depression include outdoor activities. This includes  rock climbing, virtual reality activities (10), and even martial arts. In one study, the effects of rock climbing on emotional control and developing depression was looked at. Twenty people used rock climbing for therapy, while twenty used relaxation techniques. Rock climbing was shown to have a positive affect on ones ability to cope with their emotions.  A decrease in depression levels was also seen, helping control ones emotional regulations. This in turn could decrease the risk of developing depression (16).


Someones age can also contribute to the development of depression. When you combine age with level of activity, the relationship can be seen. Those less active are more likely to develop late life depression symptoms than those that are active (2). This means that activity can bring a decreased risk at the development of depression. In one study, the affects of physical activity, recreation, and arts and crafts, were used. This was to test the levels of cognition and depression in the older population. These activities were done twice a week for eight weeks. Activities of daily living, cognitive function, and level of depression were measured. This was done both before and after the test through using a questionnaire. Results showed a positive affect on cognition, and a decrease in depression. These activitys could be used as therapy for depression in the older population (13). Depression can also affect the younger population as well. Those that are more  active are at a lesser risk of the developing depression when compared to the inactive (3).


The environment  is also thought to be a factor in developing depression.  An example of this may be the residence of nursing homes, of which many times experience physical abuse. Exercise or activity may be a way of relieving general stress and possible depression. (6)

One study looked at children taking tae kwon do. Three groups of eight students were looked at. One group took tae kwon do and were part of a multi cultural family.  One group was a control group and part of a multi cultural family. This group did not take tae kwon do. The other group was non multi cultural. Results showed the students taking tae kwon do and in multi cultural environments had improved scores. This included levels of anger, hostility, and tension. This suggests tae kwon do as being an effective activity to decreas symptoms of depression in the younger population (4).

When medical treatments are put together with physical activity, better results may be seen than using medications alone. It may be suggested that if you are taking current medication to start being more physically active. Even though treatment is part of depression, decreasing the symptoms and risks of developing it is more important. The effects exercise has on depression is primarily decreasing the chances of its development. If you think you may develop depression, try to be more physically active. Use it as a way to release your feelings. This may decrease the possibilities of developing depression.