• Lauren O'Riordan

The Best Form of Exercise to Help with Depression

The answer is ANY. I mean...I'm not going to say exercise magically 'fixes' depression because it doesn't, however sometimes a little bit of exercise can help.

There has been many clinical studies which shows, regular exercise can reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercise causes the same structural changes to the brain as antidepressants, meaning neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. That being said, no-one 'should' feel a simple run can always chase the blues away, because that's just not the case. People with severe depression, anxiety, or personality disorders etc, will need to seek help with psychotherapy and medication. Which leads me onto my next topic...

Does Exercise ALWAYS help with mental health problems?

This question definitely depends on the person in question. I am no stranger to eating disorders and during my triggering spells, I may over-exercise to the point where injuries are likely to occur. During exercising there is a lot of counting, ie. reps, sets, laps, time, weight and/or distance. This makes it an 'ideal' (I say ideal coming from my own experience) way to feed obsessive traits, ensuring control over calorie intake and expenditure. This can be one example where repetitive exercise, may not be the best route when dealing with these problems.

On the flip side of this, exercise can be a good tool to reduce stress through releasing endorphins in the brain. Physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body, thus helping the mind to relax. The body and mind have a strong connection and mindfulness plays a big role in recovery.

Useful tip: Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground or the rhythm of your breathing. By adding this mindfulness element, you can really focus on your body and how it feels as you exercise.


Aerobic and cardio exercises have the upper hand when it comes to exercising to ease depression. Running (especially outdoors), can give you such a high and sense of achievement when you've completed it! The release of endorphins is known as the 'runner's high'. Trail runs or running through the countryside are my favourite!

“Endorphins are our body’s natural morphine and, when released by special glands in our brains, they can produce a sense of well-being or joy and also decrease pain levels"

Weight -Training

As a woman, and of course a man, weight lifting makes you feel strong! You feel a sense of accomplishment, when you manage to shift weight you never thought would be possible! Strength training helps you lose body fat, increase your metabolism and preserve muscles when in a calorie deficit. However, in regards to mental health, mindfulness is practiced when weight training, for example; Squatting with a heavy weight across your shoulders, makes you pay attention to the present moment. You must ensure correct stance, form and be aware of your body and surroundings. This requires intense concentration and focus.


Yoga can be a very powerful aid in reducing symptoms of depression, through heavily reducing the impact of stress. It can be a self-soothing technique, similar to meditation and relaxation, whilst still improving your fitness and flexibility. Yoga is a physical exercise which involves different body poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Yoga is also used to manage conditions, disorders and/or chronic or long-term pain. Through this practise, you implement mindfulness to your sessions, to really connect with your body & breathing and it can aid with managing your mental health. Yoga classes can be all different levels depending on your experience.

If you are interested in trying out a class contact:

Claire Innes-Martin Yoga <----This friendly gal is fabulous!

Group Classes

Group Classes such as: Spin and HIIT, can be used as a form of aerobic exercise. The difference here, is that you have direction from an expert and the support from the rest of the class. It creates a sense of community and will help with socialisation; mixing with like-minded people in the class. The classes are highly motivational and give you a sense of achievement, once complete!

Personal Training

Lastly, having a PT can sometimes do the world of good. It means scheduled appointments, to ensure you get that little bit of exercise in order to help reduce symptoms of depression. Just having someone there to ensure safety and (more importantly) someone to talk to! Gyms can be a scary environment for some people, it helps to have someone you can trust, someone who understands your journey, show you what to do and aid in building your confidence in the gym.

Remember if you are struggling, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I am always on the other end of a message or if you're already my client you know I don't leave you alone haha!

Thanks for reading

L x

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