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"Many people find that exercise significantly reduces the effects of Depression"

Recent research highlights the value of exercise in moderating depression. Blumenthal, et al. 1999, studied the effects of exercise training on older patients with major depressive disorders. The conclusion from this study indicated that, although antidepressants may facilitate a more rapid initial therapeutic response than exercise, after 16 weeks of treatment; exercise was equally effective in reducing depression in patients suffering major depressive disorder.

Recent research in Queensland by Dan Dwyer also confirms the benefits of exercise in relation to Depression. He states " my tests have found that when we exercise and reach a higher level of fitness, our brains appear to build up resistance to serotonin, and so the body does not tire so easily". He goes on to say "our findings suggest that there could be strong benefit for people who suffer from depression to take up exercise as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of Depression." (report in Courier Mail, 15th July 2000)

Many people are quite uncomfortable or disappointed by the fact that they have to take medication and are interested in finding ways to reducing their depression, whereby they can make a difference, and have little or no need to use an external substance to reduce their depression. However any decision to change or reduce medication needs to be responsibly managed in consultation with a practioner.

Unfortunately one of the most challenging aspects of Depression is a general lack of motivation. The overwhelming sense of physical inertia can make it very difficult to do even the most simple of tasks, much less get out and do regular exercise.

To overcome the physical inertia from depression, you may need to be assisted by a supportive friend or partner, or to participate in a structured program, as the incentive to exercise on a regular basis.

It is widely acknowledged that if you can discipline yourself to do some form of exercise regularly, you will almost definitely feel better for it. Even a brisk walk once a day is a good start. Garry MacDonald, who is on the board of the National Depression Institute, says that this was one of the best things he did during the worst of his depression. Every morning, whether he felt like it or not, and he rarely felt like it, he would make himself get up and go for a brisk walk for half an hour. About 20 minutes into the walk he would start to feel much better than when he first started.

Exercise is becoming a more recognised form of therapy. Doug Burke, who has worked with Vietnam Veterans for many years, has developed a structured exercise program that is very successful in treating Veterans suffering depression and trauma reactions. The success of this program is demonstrated by the fact that it is in this years' Federal Budget, the Department of Veterans Affairs has extended the funding to deliver this program on a national basis over the next 4 years.

Doug, Counsellor/Director of http://www.fitnesstherapy.com.au/ is currently developing, and will soon be trialing, treatment programs for the general population. These will combine structured exercise and change orientated therapy (both individual and group based). Depressed people often know the things they should be doing to overcome their depression. The structure of these innovative programs acts to overcome the physical and psychological inertia people face. Psychological change is not so difficult once people experience positive physical changes in their life, and learn to master some of the intrusive physiological reactions of their body.


Yo - gargh!

(November 27th 2000, Meg Britton)
Meg has written a light piece about her experience with yoga!

(September 27th 2000, Vol 2, No. 35)
John McMan has included some information on the benefits of exercie in his newletter.


The effectiveness of exercise as an intervention in the management of depression: systematic review and meta-regression analysis of randomised controlled trials

Lack Of Exercise, Depression Could Be Cause Most Fatal Heart Attack Deaths
The well-known link between depression and fatal heart attacks may be mostly a result of lack of exercise by seriously depressed adults, scientists report today.


(July 15th 2000, The Courier Mail)

DUKE STUDY: Exercise may be just as effective as medication for treating major depression.
The researchers studied 156 elderly patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and assigned them to three groups: exercise, medication, or a combination of medication and exercise. To the surprise of the researchers, after 16 weeks all three groups showed statistically significant and similar improvement in measurements of depression.

Beat The Blues
This article appeared in the Illarwarra Mercury in August this year. It is about a woman who runs a 'drum group' strictly for women, and who says that the physical involvement in drumming helps to overcome depression, stress, etc.

by people who have been using Exercise.

Please send us your comments and experiences with Exercise to share with others.

I have played 4 high school sports and one of the reasons that lead to my having depression was over exercising. I just went way too overboard and my stress level increased to a level where I broke down physically and mentally. As a result, I ended up quitting some of my committments and as of now, having graduated from high school, I only exercise individually just to keep in shape (unfortunately, not quite in shape). To get to my point, with depression, it is extremely hard for me to keep energized and motivated. And even when I do force myself to go to the gym, I don't ever end up having fun but end up coming home more tired and grumpy. I just lost all joy in things.

However, things have just changed recently. I have found someone who likes running, not on the treadmill but outside. It has made all the difference for me. I love having someone running with me and it makes time fly by so much faster. I would be lying if I said, this has been a miracle but it has helped a lot.

Speaking of miracles, however, one time after a run, I had the runner's high/euphoria for a very long time (about 4 hours) and felt like I could not be happier.

From: Melancholy

I had heard from several sources of the benefits of exercise. Having been diagnosed (accidentally during a routine checkup) as being depressed my GP prescribed Serzone. This produced a good effect (by no means perfect) but after 5 months I realised that until the stress which triggered the depression was removed things would not improve. So I eventually started swimming (after a 15 year break). At first I was just tired, but after the 3rd session (twice a week) I started feeling a whole lot better. I have been swimming regularly for 2 months and cannot recommend it highly enough. The effect takes 1-2 hours , but then I feel normal for a day or so. (while continuing with medication). I am not well yet but the exercise and medication make a huge difference. I hope this will give some hope to all who read this. It is worth the effort. (believe me, I know how hard it is to get going)


I am afraid not everyone finds that exercise is beneficial for depression. I have repeatedly found circumstances in which exercise, especically solitary exercise, makes depression WORSE.

An obvious example of exercise that exacerbates depression is mowing the lawns, probably because it is solitary and rather repetitive. A few years ago I took regular walks every evening of about an hour's duration. I was on my own, and for this reason the walks encouraged "loop" thinking and very clearly increased suicidal ideation.

Walking may help, but as a rule only if I am looking for something interesting or I am busy talking to a companion. The focused curiosity and the conversation are what matters here (not the exertion).

Exercise in moderation is good for my physical health, but not for depression. It is probably significant that, if my depression levels ease off, my interest in exercise increases.

What does ease my depression slightly? Writing (if it is something creative), reading (normally), and watching an interesting film.

- sent in by Nigel Sinnot -

From the depressioNet Messageboard...
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  • Cycling and Depression - clemo January 14, 2001 (4)


    The factual information on Exercise. contained above was taken from:
    Duke Study

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