Exercise for depression and how to start from scratch

Exercise can make such a huge difference to your mental health, and can really help to lift your mood. There's tons of options out there, and lots of helpful tips to start if you've never really been much a sporty person before.
exercise for depression

Getting sweaty. We all know that it’s good for us, right? Exercise can be hugely helpful when you’re suffering from depression.

After all, we’re supposed to be moving our bodies, instead of just sitting on the sofa in the evenings after hours spent in front of a computer at work. 

But our busy lives often leave little room or energy, and so we skip exercising again and again. Plus, when you’re feeling depressed, it’s particularly hard to motivate yourself to workout. 

I get it. I really do. 

And perhaps, like me once, you’ve never really done any of this proper exercising before. Whilst you’d like to see yourself as someone who works out, you can’t really see that happening and you don’t know where and how to begin. 

why exercise can help you beat depression

Exercise makes us feel good. It releases a cascade of rewarding endorphins, and that’s why so many people then can’t stop.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “runner’s high” or even experienced it yourself: the moment when running becomes effortless and you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s just such an amazing feeling! 

But no, I don’t get this every time I’m out running… However, what I do experience every single time I work out is that I come home feeling good about myself and my accomplishment. That never stops. I can pretty much rely on it. Plus, my muscles feel more relaxed.


running for depression

There have now also been so many studies confirming that being physically active can help you to both prevent and beat depression. Once again another good reason to start believing that your body and mind are 100% connected. For some people, regular exercise can even be as good or better than antidepressants.

Back when I was suffering from depression, starting to run was totally fundamental to getting back to a place of happiness. I really cannot overrate this, and that’s why it’s a major part of my health coaching programme, too!

how to start working out when you've never done it before

So there really are very convincing reasons to exercise, but how do you start when you’ve never really done it before?

Well, first of all pick something that you know or think you’ll enjoy doing. It’s got to be something that you can sustain for a while. For me, that was running outdoors and it’s still my major form of exercise. 

You could run, visit the gym, cycle, swim, play team sports, dance, martial arts, or even do things like heavy gardening that gets you sweating, or start with brisk walking. 

So many options! If you’ve never formally exercised before, it’s probably easiest to pick something that doesn’t cost you anything and is something you can try either on your own or with somebody you trust and feel comfortable with. I trust that you’ll pick something that suits your circumstances and takes into account issues such as chronic pain or overwhelming fatigue. 

Then, once you’ve chosen something, there’s one thing to do next: Go and do it. 

Even the longest journey starts with a single step.

make it as easy as possible for yourself

It can be really helpful to tell somebody about your new commitment. Set a realistic target for yourself that fits into your schedule, and then ask somebody to check in with you now and again. I do this weekly with my clients. It’s just so much easier to stick to your goals when there’s somebody who’s going to ask you about your efforts, right?

Now, if you’re feeling out of shape then please don’t compare your performance with somebody who’s been doing it for a while. It totally does not matter how fast you are, how strong you are or how long you can keep going. You’re doing this for yourself, for your mood and mental health, and for your future. Any movement is better than no movement, and this is just for you. 

If you haven’t yet got any sport shoes or other clothing, then go and treat yourself to some new ones. You’ll automatically feel more at ease because you’ll start to identify yourself as somehow who exercises. If you start to look like you’re somebody sporty, then soon enough you’ll feel this way, too. And before you know it, you’ll get used to this new hobby of yours and you’ll love how it makes you feel.

And then keep going

Quick word of warning: I assume you’re in this for the long haul. You won’t always get this rush of endorphins flooding your brain. It won’t always be amazing. I sometimes go out running and come back thinking that this wasn’t a great session. Sometimes it just really feels like yet another thing-to-do on my list, but those are the crucial moments where you won’t give up.

There will be great moments, and some tough and not-so-enjoyable ones. Just keep going.

It’s worth it!

exercise for depression

Welcome to the blog

I’m Claudia Smith and I help women get to better mental health naturally. Having overcome depression once myself, I am a qualified nutritionist, coach and practice functional medicine.

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