Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

6 Exercise Tips from My Docs

Since so many Beyond Blue readers expressed the importance of exercise in their war against depression on the message board of my “Depression and Coupes” post, I thought I’d share exercise tips by Karen Swartz, M.D., one of the doctors at Johns Hopkins who evaluated me a year and a half ago. She is Director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, where I get much of my research.

After decades of investigation, there is now indisputable evidence that regular physical exercise can relieve and perhaps even prevent stress, anxiety, and depression — especially for women, who tend to suffer from these problems more often than men. Research also shows that exercise can treat depression and prevent relapses in some older individuals as effectively as antidepressant drugs. Exercise may even reverse some of the mental decline that can occur with aging, probably because it improves blood flow to the brain.
A 2006 study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin found that, for people with major depressive disorder, a half hour of brisk walking on a treadmill is more effective in producing feelings of well-being and boosting energy than resting. Study participants also reported less tension, depression, anger, and fatigue after walking. What’s more, the effects of exercise were immediate: As soon as the subjects stepped off the treadmill, they were in a better mood, and they felt good for up to one hour later.
Here is our best prescription for boosting your mood with exercise:
Tip 1: Exercise now…and again.
Research shows that a 10- minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. Another study demonstrates that 10 minutes of pedaling on a stationery bike is enough to make you feel better, at least temporarily. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly — stop exercising, and the psychological lift will disappear. The converse is also true: If you’re used to regular physical activity, your mood will suffer if you take an exercise vacation.


Tip 2: Choose activities that are moderately intense.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming, undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don’t need to sweat strenuously to see results.
Tip 3: Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent).
Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices.
Tip 4: Be wary of competitive sports.
Exercise that pits people head-to-head with opponents may be too stressful, leading to a bad mood in the face of defeat. If you’re the type whose competitive spirit may get the better of you, choose a physical activity that you enjoy and that allows you to de-stress.
Tip 5: Add a mind-body element.
Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and pump up your energy. But if you don’t want to do yoga or the like, you can add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.
Tip 6: Start slowly, and don’t overdo it.
More isn’t better. Athletes who overtrain find their moods drop rather than lift. You also risk injury and boredom if you push too hard, too fast, or too far.

  • Mary Conway

    When depression is accompanied by exhaustion, exercise becomes an impossible “must-do.” Where do you get the energy to increase energy by exercising?

  • Blanche

    As a person who has depression, alcoholism, and exhaustion, I find I feel better if I take a slow walk around the block. I try to notice nature, kids playing, dogs playing or being walked, and the like.
    If I’m “crabbin” about work, my significant other, or whatever, I do feel in a better mood. I try to get to AA or my support group a little early, and walk for 10 min or so. It does help (I admit I don’t know what I’m gonna do in winter, though).

  • Larry Parker

    Walking has always been what’s done it for me.
    I’m finding I have a very real, similarly to how you described it, inertia issue — it’s tough for me to get off my behind, but once I do, I can and indeed want to go (at a moderate pace, mind you) like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve gone for more than a few 2-hour (6-mile) walks this summer. (And this is a guy who’s 40 pounds overweight, so that’s saying something.)
    But I used to be 50 pounds overweight … progress, not perfection …

  • Colleen Gleason

    Theresa Bouchard~
    You are soooooooooo inspiring,and I really admire your ability to articulate our feelings! You are truly a gift to those of us so afflicted,who have lost hope…in the medical community who give up on trying new Rx,and tx. So many of our professionals DO NOT understand the pain of this illness.You look at it from different perspectives,and consider all aspects of the wholeness of a person and the ramifications of the loss of ourselves…the loss of our own souls.
    You outline “helps” from support systems,all the way to exercise.Thank God for people like you! I love you!
    Please don’t post…I just want you to know how I feel about you! You do God’s work so gracefully!
    Colleen Gleason

  • Peg

    Colleen, thanks for saying how I feel about Therese, too. God bless you.

  • sarah stone

    I find that doing a tae bo, or kick boxing
    exercise alows me to let go of any build up
    anger. By thinking of where the anger comes from,
    then fighting it as I punch or kick. Its such a
    release, and I dont find myself depressed, or eating
    to much at night, as I once did. Why take a antidepressant
    pill, when the pill is already in you. Use your strength,
    Fight the pain.
    Sarah, San Antonio, Tx

  • Sherione

    These tips are great. I exercise on a regular basis and have found that walking at our indoor Mall is good in the winter(too cold for outdoors and good for summer(when too hot). Also, I am a member of Curves, International and exercise there 3x a week. Last summer, and until around February of this year I had a bout of clinical depression that took a life of it’s own. Even when I didn’t ‘feel’ like walking, I did it anyway and always felt much better after with more energy. God made our bodies to move and feel the beauty of movement. I know that exercise, walking combined with a Curves workout benefits my mental outlook 100%. Blessings and prayers for all those ‘thinking’ about exercising even when you don’t ‘feel’ like it or ‘want to’.

  • Sherione

    The last post was mine and I didn’t sign my name and location.
    Central TX

  • bette gibble

    what kind of exercise can a77 year old lady do to inprove my total body? i have heart problems and COPD!

  • Thema Nicholas

    I have the same condition ad posted by bette. Triple by-pass, diabetic and arthritic knees. Walking hurts the knees. What kind of exercies and how much is suggested.

  • Micki

    How about aqua-exercising in a pool? It’s not hard on the knees and one gets to fully move one’s body, which is good for core strength.

  • Cathy H.

    I have problems with my knees also. I’m overweight and on my feet all day at work (daycare)I try to do Tae-Bo, I love it! Great workout, but since I can’t do a lot of knee workouts, I do some until my knees start to hurt. Years back I did the Tae-Bo and lost inches. They do a lot of kicking, like kick-boxing, that helps lose. I also can’t do a lot of walking, because of the knees. I do love to exercise tho.

  • stephen

    Have you ever tried using the herb Oregano.Eaten raw it is an incredible “pain killer”. Start with at least one half of a tablespoon.Great after excercise to kill the pain.

  • SAMSON714



    Dear sir,
    I am Mr.JAYASHANKER, Of 66 years old DOCTERS told me that I am having
    RIGHT BUNDLE BLOCK from my [ECG]Electro cardio gram.WHEN I WALK IAM ABLE

  • Alesha G.

    I am a Mom of a 4yr old baby girl and she keeps me busy, she started school today and now I have the blues. I am overweight, I am always depressed and dieting, but whenever I excersise I really do feel better, but I am not seeing results. I need to know what excersises to do to see results, tummy, buns,and thighs, are my problem areas. Please help.

  • Xotchil

    This message is replying to Alisha, the mother of the four-year old little girl. having lost some 55 pounds in the past ten years, I just wanted to encourage you some. The key to beginning and then persisting (fitness/depression recovery) can be found in your spirit’s yearning to be honored and delighted in, particularly by you. Once you realize the value and force of that spirit, you will find the faith to ‘spiff it up’ in all sorts of ways: By connecting to and embracing that innermost element of yourself you will find and then build a solid foundation, from which you will be able to extend in any direction, because you will know ‘whatcha got’, what your tools are.
    A restlessness starts to take over, and the body really feels the need to delight in itself too. The delight is sort of your own responsibility to fan and and fortify, but it feeds on itself, and soon you just gotta go skip, swing, roll, climb, etc. just because it is so much fun!! After several months of just thinking ‘One more bloody step on this jog…’ -pant -pant… I one day realized that I had run a mile simply enjoying the birds, river, sky, etc. A year later I was running up to 7 miles.
    (An interesting side effect of this work was that it seemed that, lo, all the jerks disappeared from my life – my ’emotional hooks’ were gone.)
    Every step counts, as little as it might be. We are all worth every step towards liberation and joy.
    I hope this helps you somehow.
    Best of luck to you and your little woman…

  • Tina Meerovitz

    Tina Meerovitz

  • Carmen

    Tina, I hope that read this because I suffer from Major Depression also and I used to attempt to exercise for everyone else,(ex-boyfriends, my doctors,and other folks)I even went to the gym to “work out” But ended up falling off the Treadmill..I now know what color my skin is cause I left most of it on the treadmill :( OUCH
    After that painful experience I vowed never to step foot in a gym again! That was a few years ago, however over the past few months, Something has come over me–I really think that GOD was hitting me on the head…Anyway I have been excerising FOR ME.I read magazines trying to find excercises that “fit” me,I’ve been trying to make an effort to DO SOMETHING at least once a week. I know that the experts say two/three times a week but I say “some movement is better than none” As far as my depression vs my once a week exercise workout day which is Thursday,it gives me somthing to look forward to. I workout by attempting to jumping jacks, side kicks, high knees, walking sometimes I even make up my own :O)and after I cool down, I do feel better.I do have a workout buddy “current” boyfriend and my depression is still there,but for an hour and half one day a week I am working to making my mind and body feel better.
    My advise for you Tina, is to pick a day,do any type of movement that you feel confortable with, clear your mind AND go for it. WARNING you will be SORE…but you’ll feel a little about you!!!and that is what is most important.PEACE

  • Ashley B.

    Hey Jayashanker, I am 26 years old and I have been an avid walker since 16. When you put your hands up by your heart instead of swinging down by your hips you get better blood flow to your fingers, try putting your arms up by your heart and see if your fingers wont get numb, hope this helps you!
    Alisha G., Don’t give up girlfriend, your doing good, Keep on girl don’t stop. You know it does feels great when you work out.
    After I lost the 95 pounds I put on with my 6 year old(lots of emotional eating) I was really scared of putting the wieght back on, I love to eat, any time, when i’m happy I eat, sad i eat, excited, you get the picture. I decided to take a new look at my success, I was verry frustrated after 2 months of doing 100 situps a day EVERY day that I still couldn’t see results. Well It takes about 6 months to notice a difference in your stomach.
    Okay, forget it, I decided to not work out with the intentions of having a moviestar body anymore. I don’t think about the results anymore, it really frustrated me to and I quit working out because of it. Now I workout because I need to to stay healthy and live a long comfortable life, I do it for health not really for looks thats just one of the many perks, so keep on alisha have faith in yourself and you will see results. Sincerely,
    P.S. Jogging is great for dropping wieght, if you eat right and jog about 2 miles 5 days a week you will definetly see results within 2 months. It takes about 1 hour fifteen minutes and that includes your 5 minute warm up and cool down.

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.