Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

New Study: Exercise Is Like An Antidepressant

As a recovering addict, I love any buzz I can get. Working out–any exercise that gets my heart rate over 160 beats per minute, into the cardiovascular zone, does the job. And in a safe way, so I don’t have to cheat on my sobriety. I’m probably as addicted to exercise as I was to booze, but this is one mood-altering activity that doesn’t deteriorate my marriage and my other relationships: with my kids, with myself, and with God.
According to a new study reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, regular exercise has a real and significant effect on depression. In fact, according to 16-week study, which included 202 depressed men and women age 40 and older, the findings demonstrate that those who went through group-based exercise therapy did as well as those treated by an antidepressant.
Researchers aren’t sure how, exactly, exercise relieves depression. Some say that exercise, like antidepressants, increase the activity of serotonin and/or norepinephrine; working out also releases endorphins and other hormones that reduce pain, induce euphoria, have a calming effect, and combat stress. Other added benefits include improved sleep patterns, exposure to natural daylight (which helps especially with seasonal affective disorder), weight loss or maintenance, and psychological aids (offering a healthy way to vent pent-up anger, and affording people a sense of self-mastery over their feelings).
And the gym is a kind of support group. These women, I’m guessing, are going after the endorphin buzz just like me because alcohol and recreational drugs don’t do the trick anymore. And I suspect that they also have great difficulty praying and meditating. Every time they close their eyes, they have visions of screaming kids, Chuck E. Cheese hell, and the crisis of no thank-you gifts for teachers. The only peace available to me and my soul sisters is acquired by getting our heart rates into the fat-burning or cardiovascular zone—running, cycling, or climbing the calories away to the Promised Land, where we will eat them up again.

  • Larry Parker

    OK, I’m not triathlon woman like Therese, but with long walks — without enormous EXERTION per se if you’re not in shape to start — you can feel both the effect on your body (in a nice way) and the calming effect on your mind.
    Wish I’d figured that out 10 years ago … well, you know what they say, guys are stubborn ;-P

  • marilyn

    therese i used to be so bad that woul drive to the corner to buy a newspaper.a freind of mine talked me into walking with her of course i grumble that i couldnt do it sarted out once around the block befor i knew it we were walking 2 miles a day.when she coulnd go i wouldnt go but i figured that it was really takeing away alot of stress and i slept better. now i go all the time even joined the y.m.c.a i can tell if i miss going it does make your mentel health better.

  • Wayde

    I’ve just started a regular exercise routine and can vouch for the effects it has had on my mental health. My question is, could regular exercise eventually lead to my not needing to take medication? Just a thought…

  • Larry Parker

    Possible (it’s between you and your doctor) but HIGHLY, HIGHLY unlikely.

  • Rachel

    Wow. This is perfect. Iv heard so much lately about how exercize can directly affect our moods and treat depression. I believe it more that ever…but Im in the worse slump…every winter…I find myself in this like drag of energy and want to sleep and not do anything but chek my emails, and watch movies. Iv tried anti depressants, but dont like feeling ‘numb’ or the rest of the side effects. So somehow I need to get enthused, motivated, and energetic. Its so very cold here, and getting to walk is the last thing I want to do, but I know I need to do something. R.

  • Bernadette

    I G R E A T L Y MISS the warm weather my friend!! Man, sure miss spring, summer and even fall w/all that walking I was doing. I even lost 25 pds. 2 yrs. ago! *Sigh*. But here we go again w/winter. And this winter I weigh 5 more pds. than last yr.
    But anyway, the walking had greater benefits besides getting into a size 6 pair of jeans. Actually I finally realized I’d become underweight. So anyway, at this pt. in life, staying mentally healthy and taking care of of the body for strength are the main goals here.
    Sizing back up to a size 8 jeans has more benefits anyway–eating healthier, feeling happier and my boobs came back {:–D
    Just looking forward to walking 4 miles a day again for the stress RELIEF and all that wonderful energy and feelings of rejuvenation.

  • Lynne

    If hard work and excersize were all it took I’d be cured by now. Instead I still find comfort in wine and chocolate. Thank God the powers that be decided that there were redeeming and beneficial qualities to my favorite pastimes. Now that’s my idea of “natural remedies”!

  • Didi

    I’ve suffered from major depression since my late teen years. Recently I discovered I was pregnant and went off all of my medicine cold turkey. The side effects lasted about a week and my body and mind went through hell.
    In Dec. 07 I found out I had a miscarriage. The doctor restarted my medication but I chose to cut the dose in half although I didn’t tell him that. I became super depressed but instead of increasing my dose I started exercising like I used to when I was in my 20’s. So far so good! I was still depressed even while on the antidepressants so why take them. For me, cardiovascular exercise has always worked. I just never felt up to it but I’m not losing this high again. I feel 100 times better emotionally and I’m working on the physical aspects of it. I did notice however even if I let a few days slip and not exercise, it does come back. Exercise has to be done at least every other day, well at least that’s how it works for me.

  • Last Hope

    I am desperate for any help and relief. I was always an excerciser and remember the physical and mental benefits. I just barely have started up again, but its hard to get motavated when you are so depressed. I do believe it helps tho, lets work together and help each other

  • Debbi

    I am dealing with a fiancee who suffers from major depression. We are reading Battelfield of the Mind, author is Joyce Meyers. It has a workbook to do along with the book. It seems to be helping somewhat. We have tried medication, hypnotherapy, therapy, books, on and on and on. Nothing seems to help. Maybe this workbook can possibly help someone else too. God Bless.

  • gayla

    i love reading these comments…i have been sober for 3 wks now…by Gods grace…yes i have put on alittle weight since i stopped drinking and smoking….i have been eating any and everything i see….i used to be an avid runner yrs ago before my addictions…so now i am trying to start eating healthy again and get my walk on aagin….boy the change is just crazy..i also take a antidepressant..lexapro…seems to help…the one that has helped me is getting God back into my life and seek Him on a daily basis…i have dealt with depression since i was alittle girl…but by Gods grace and wisdom i will be ok and be blessed in all that i do..i am praying for all u r struggling..may Gods grace cover u and may His blessings fill ur life…i love all of in christ….ur sister in the Lord…Gayla

  • Gary

    As a recovering drug addict, I have found exercise very useful.
    Especially when I get that “restless” feeling. For me it is part of a balanced approach to recovery. I’m constantly looking for ways to generated serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, etc. I’ve also found that time with my puppy is great. On the over 160 heart rate front, when I was training for a marthon and pushing myself on runs, I felt a very calming effect, runners high is a very real experience. I also believe that exercise, sex, food, travel, all kinds of stuff can serve as a substitute for developing a relationship with God. There is a passage in the big book of AA that talks specifically about this, “we tried taking more exercise, going to health farms and sanitariums, taking a trip, not taking a trip”

  • Brandy

    I am actually going back to the gym for the first time in at least 3 months. I’ve dealt with depression and being overweight pretty much since I was 13. I’ve had a lot of set backs and have never really been the outgoing type so I have very few friends which has lead to even greater depths of depression because I tend to spend all my free time alone. Two years ago I joined the Army and found friends and challenges in basic training and my job training. When I came home I was engaged and looking forward to getting married. Basically it all fell apart and 2007 really sucked for me. I am finally getting back in the game and making plans to get back down to at least what I was when I graduated basic training. Keep your fingers crossed and please Pray for me. I know I need all the help I can get!

  • Penny

    Balance is so important to me so I can live a full life.Many blessings that have come to me have been so kindly and sweetly laid before me that only my loving Lord could be the source of this wonder.Our abundant God blesses me with compassionate eyes which allows me to see me as I am, his noble creation of spirit and mind/body journeying towards His open arms!Prayers and peace.Penny

  • Mary

    I think this information is so important. As a licensed counselor I encourage my clients to exercise as I know that it can be a first step to feeling better. I know this from experience, but this study will help validate what I already know. Trouble is that I can not find the article when I click into Psychosomatic Medicine. Could someone please specify the exact name of the article. Thanks.

  • Penny

    I am a recovering addict also diagnosed in 1995 with bi-polar and I have had so many ups and down&relapses that I am at my wits end. So when reading this article I felt like it was fate that made me do so because ironically I just joined my local YMCA and I have been too depressed to go use it,GO FIGURE, Thanks for the info I intend to get my butt off the couch and get some of this natural healing!!!!

  • Kawanna

    Thank you all for expressing such real talk. I have talked myself out of going back to the gym. Whoever knew that this “weight thing” could be so heavy in many areas of our lives. As a newly wed, I do believe that I have given up. I worked out and did weight watchers just to be able to fit a dress. Although I do know it’s bigger than that. Being an emotional eater really sucks. I would really like to believe that I’m ready this time. Maybe I will start with whats at the core of all this “emotional stuff”..

  • Karen Koontz

    This is for Penny: What a wonderful and powerful prayer regarding abundance! Keep up the positive energy! I know that this, or something better, now manifests for me in totall satisfying and harmonious ways for the highest good of all concerned. I also know that MIRACLES are now freely flowing through me and to me, every day in every way, in Jesus Christ’s name I pray, I love you all the way! Amen, kk.

  • Gorobei

    For Mary, who was wondering where to find the original article.
    At Psychosomatic Medicine you cannot get the whole article without subscribing to the online service, but you can read the abstract. I believe this is the correct article, the abstract to be found at:
    I’m not sure about subscribing, but it might cost you something. The abstract is free.
    Best regards, Gorobei


    I did not know about these studies until now, but I do know that even if your not a fitness bug – a ten minute walk or 15 minutes of upper body exercise has made a difference for me. I have Beverly Harris Work Out home tape for moderate exersize and it definately affects my energy level and my mood positively. I do them every day because it isn’t too much and I don’t have to go to a gym to do this. I only mention this, because I realize that allot of people aren’t used to exercise or can’t do anything too strenuous so this is a solution.
    Lady of Light

  • Eileen

    This is for Lynne,,,,, You make me laugh… your humor is great… when you posted a comment on Feb.3 about the exercise and that you find comfort in Chocolate and Wine….. I agree,,, although I am out of Wine at the moment… BUT NOT CHOCOLATE>>>> and to top it off my son works in Hershey (Hershey Pa.) at the HOtel where alot of the celebs come and stay… but the point I am trying to make is he has connections in getting discounts on all the Hersheys candies…. ;0) So I might try and exercise myself by picking up the phone and order some chocolate and some sort of wine…. Thanks for the idea .. (I fully agree with you on that one) Greeneyez (Eileen)

  • Linda

    Ok, so I’ve heard all the exercise info ad nauseum… and I’m trying but what happens when I feel the opposite of what everyone says about exercise.
    I do it because it’s supposed to be good for me, but really, after I exercise I feel terrible…dead tired, I have NEVER felt the runner’s high or euphoria, it gives me insomnia (even though I’m completely exhausted… I can’t sleep, super frustrating)it makes me ache and therefore cranky and it makes me more hungry which makes me snack more which makes me gain weight even though I eat veggies (okay I do eat the dip too). Now I’m trying yoga… boring!!! I want to quit all together, but I don’t want to quit… know what I mean. Any brilliance out there… besides a bad Nike commercial?

  • Lynne

    Re: Linda, could be something is amiss with your biology? I mean blood sugar levels, hormones out of wack…especially if your body is reacting in the exact opposite of the expected reactions. What your describing is consistant with depression (fatigue, achey, cranky, insomnia, appetite changes etc) but if you’re not getting relief from the ordinary chanels you should consider medical assistance. (unless you already have) You can always get a second opinion, nowadays there are a lot more options. Don’t give up too soon!

  • Lynne

    Re: Eileen Thanks for the comment. It’s good to know I can help someone out a little. Laughter is, after all the best natural remedy there is!!!

  • Angelgirl08

    Oh how right you are! I went through a divorce recently and without exercise, I would have lost my mind. I am a Weight Watcher also so between eating better and the walking that I have done, I am happy to say I am 70 lbs. lighter and the healthiest I have ever been. Exercise is a great tool – it cleanses your mind of stress, anger, pent up frustrations, as well as whittles away body fat, feelings of insufficiency, self worth, and lots of others. It also gave me time by myself to talk to God and sort out my true feelings and realize who I really am. Kinda got back in touch with my christian side as well.
    So as far as I am concerned, take the time to work some form of exercise into your daily life. You will reap the benefits for sure!

  • Gary

    I’ve been through clinical depression (not your ordinary blues caused by external events/situations) and exercise doesn’t touch it. Only meds got me back to life.

  • Sharon Brown

    This is for the lady that her body reacts the opposite to exercise.
    You should take Lynns advice and see a Dr.or get a second opinion.
    There are a lot of different things that can be causing you to feel this way,it’s always better to know whats going on with you physically.
    Case in point i myself felt this way.I went to went to my Dr.he ordered some tests,came back rheumatoid arthritis(totally treatable)…
    Now I’m back in the game…

  • Wendy

    I take anti-depressants for depression but also another medication for Anxiety and Insomnia, and I began a cycle of working out on my elliptical every night, first for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, working my way up to 30 minutes and I have NEVER felt better! Exercising, praying, staying on my meds have all helped me immensley. So I would definitly Recommend anyone who is feeling sad, depressed, etc. to at least TRY and get a little bit of exercise, there is no better feeling in the world!!!!!!!!

  • Eileen

    This is in response to what Wendy wrote…. I too as of yesterday got on an anti-depressant as I finally got to see my Doc. I was put on Lexapro and a sleep medicine for the insomnia… as for anxiety,, i didnt mention that to her,, guess like a dummy,, I should have… but what I mainly want to say is she agreed that I am going through a severe depression and it stems from the surgery I had 1 year ago… The Doc says it will take atleast a good 3-4 weeks before any noticable changes.. Have to stay on the Premarin for the Hormonal reasons… So pray that I have some relief sooner than later as I took the sleep med. last night and it did not work… feel a slight better knowing I can express myself on here with all of you… thank you ….Greeneyez (Eileen)

  • Liz Duenas

    I am too a recovering addict and if I don’t exercise I get very sick. I am a type A personality, have lotsa energy,…when I start aching, getting headaches, depression, sluggishness and no energy…it usually is because I haven’t done rigorous exercise. I have never had to take any “meds” for anxiety or depression and I had full anxiety and depression – EXERCISE along with eating correctly cured and alleviated these disorders. It elevates my mood and calms down the anxiety…

  • Anonymous

    A month ago, I was in a car accident that totaled my vehicle forcing me to quit my job being that it was 50 minutes away from where I live. I was not at fault, so that doesn’t tax my brain with stress or depression. But what does is the challenge in my own mortality. This was the first accident I’ve been involved in as a driver and the worst I’ve witnessed first hand. I suffered luckily only a chest contusion which has fully healed since. But I am constantly reminded of the accident by the absence of my car, total dependancy on my poor husband, and the seat belt burn in the chest of my jacket. Now I’m looking for a job and can’t seem to grab one. There is a bit of hopelessness that is setting in and my mind is clouded with stupid insecurities and literally CLOUDED! I can’t seem to function normally. I am young and I know trying to get into the workfield will be hard already, but I’m extremely challenged at the moment. I don’t have money or insurance to see a doctor. I’ll try working out and post again in about a week.

  • Darleelee

    I, too, had the same results a feeling better after incorporating an exercise routine in my lifestyle. I feel and look great! I use my excercise time to pray, meditate and worship the Lord, Jesus Christ and at the same time I am becoming healthy in my body, mind and spirit. I’ve noticed when I don’t excercise regualary, I feel sluggish and out of sync. I encourage everyone, who has physical, mental and spiritual (I guess that everyone) issues going on in their life to use this tool of exercise to help you.

  • janetjam77

    To the dear person who had the auto accident,
    Just a few comments on your situation. Were you aware the auto accident can cause a low-grade version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? When you mentioned the clouded feeling and the insecurities I was reminded about an instance in my past where this happened to me.
    I personally went to a Thought Field Therapist, used vigorous exercise (walking) Yoga, and Callenetics as well as nutritional therapy to overcome the symptoms. I also had alot of group support and did alot of inner healing work. I searche long and hard for a combination of things that would work for me. Persistance and help from a loving Universe will see you through. Plus friends.

  • deb

    Also to the person who had the car accident: If you truly cannot afford to see a doctor, there may be non-fee services available to you. Many times you can get free or nearly free counseling. It is worth looking into. Is there a women’s center or clinic in your area? Along with/or instead of that, try a nearby church whose pastor/priest/minister may provide counseling. And lastly, city or county services for folks with low incomes. Many years ago I nearly died trapped in my car in an ice storm. I was rescued with no visible lingering effects. Originally I felt a sense of invincibility that soon was replaced with irrational fears. It took a while to get past that. Get help where you can. Your life is meant to be enjoyed. Good Luck.

  • Clair

    I am also a recovering addict from drugs. (three years) However I have made drinking a more “casual/social” habbit and am not liking it or feeling great about myself because I am aware of “cross addiction”. BUT, with my “minimizing/justifying” addictive personality I say to myself “it’s legal”……To get back to the point—-I have joined a fitness center and will begin a schedule or program and try not only to lose weight but to find “my high” in a healthy/legal way. Thank you for this original message it put a smile on my face and in my heart to hear that this program/membership I have joined is also a good “escape/high”. THANK-YOU!!! I can’t wait

  • Kathy

    My situation is alittle different. After my second child I have had continuous problems of high blood pressure and diabetes. I have good and bad days. I have started since Jan. being more aggressive towards healthier eating which I thought wasn’t so bad and exercising..mainly walking. I have found it gives me energy after exercising puts my mind in a happier frame especially on days I take part of my lunch hour to work out at a nearby gym. I need to work out everyday but some days it is impossible to get to the gym so I incorporate something from home – an exercise video and I am getting signed up for yoga or a beginner aerobic class. Exercise I know will be the key for me. Once you get started keep it up!!! My saying is “I love me and I am in control of how I treat my body” My only regret is I didn’t start way sooner when I was younger.

  • Michelle

    I’m 52 years old and I have exercised on and off since I was 30 years old. I have always felt better when I am exercising. The day always has a brightness to it even if it is gloomy outdoors. Right now I’m not exercising and I’m beginning to see signs of depression. I must get back to it. I would encourage anyone to exercise as long as there is not a medical reason to prevent it. Life is good when exercising.

  • YQUE


  • AnnMarie C.

    I am also 52 and have been mostly active throughout my life. Cheerleading in younger years and everything from step aerobics, yoga, and weight training in more recent years. But THE BEST, most motivating, stimulating, FUN excercise routine I have ever participated in by far is KICK BOXING AEROBICS. For almost 6 years I went to a local martial arts gym in my city 3 times a week. There is nothing like it. You punch focus pads and heavy bags, you spar, you cross train with weights and resistance bands and jumpropes, you kick pads held by other participants, you get your heart rate revving and let me tell you, YOU SWEAT LIKE YOU CAN’T BELIEVE. It is SO MUCH FUN. I recommend it to one and all. Loud, motivating dance music keeps you pumped and the best thing is you work your body from head to toe every single class without having to think about working different body parts like at a regular gym. You get killer abs automatically because every movement involves your core. It’s awesome. Try it. You will never want to do any other kind of excercise again. And all that punching and kicking things really relieves the stress and depression let me tell you!! Do it!!!! You will thank me!! You’ll look the best you’ve ever looked and have fun doing it!

  • Richard Green Sr

    What have done wrong with the information I commented from my Email address.I have a steady life style that lets me keep getting wiser at being a settling down man.I do alot of handyman work at home and I do have my own boxing equipment,ride my own bikes,and occassionally.I focus my mind staying happy as I fulfilled my goals as the father, and as a man.

  • Ellen Kaminski

    I love to run. I am 41 years old and took up jogging one year ago. I am addicted! Recently, I broke my foot though, and I have been unable to run for six weeks. I really miss it…mentally and physically. My point is, though, exercise works for me. It may have taken me 40 years to find one I would stick with and love…but it came just in time. There’s so much to out there…find what you love..the endorphins will come!

  • Beth

    Working out and yoga are saving my life. I am in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage and fight depression every day. I need to work out to keep myself together for my daughters.

  • Anonymous

    Keep pressing on that’s what works for me. Learning to take one day at a time. Deal with the issues that come in that one day. Never letting my problems determine my solutions. Remembering that there is someone higher than I bigger than any problem. Who is my present help in time of trouble. I used to walk every other day and did aerobics. But now since I started working 60 hrs a week I find my exercise very hard to come by. I walk when I can. And appreciate the time when I do.Whatever we do keep pressing on and don’t stop. If it works for you. Keep doing it.

  • aida

    I wish I have the courage to start all these sounds good and it is what I neeed, depression has taken over me I am HIV_AIDS and I am under medication which I am not to happy to take because i want to be sober I also gain 20 to 25 pounds I was 123lb and I don’t want to go out because I feel fat. please tell me how do you do it

  • joanna

    I am a 45 Year old female suffering from Pulminary Hypertension,High Cholesterol,sleep apnea,amoung a list of others. I have been to see many doctors,who like to prescribe meds frequently. I have been walking 3 miles per day for the last year, and I am Happy to say My sleep apnea ,hypertension is very much under control with “NO Meds” And proper dieting. I still currently struggle with my cholesterol,which I beleive is in my genetics. Exercise is the key to a fit survivol.

  • barbara

    I’ve printed off the yoga poses & will begin them this evening, thank U soo much! I thoroughly enjoy your blog! I walk my dog every morning & every nite. I find it emproves my mood & my appreciation of life in general. It’s hard to feel down when U are enjoying the morning sun, dew on the grass, just being able to walk, we realize just how blessed we are!

  • Shirley Howard

    Hi I have high blood pressure, high chol. Sleep problems, and practising no yelling only nice kind, breath before speaking. My hormones are raging, so i have to try to keep system down, slow slow. I like doing things faster and just getting them done, any one else feel like me?

  • lizz

    Hey All…
    I was happy to find this blog, I don’t do blogs, but here I go.
    I am 58 years old, and over the past couple of years I have contracted arthritis in my hip…It has altered my life a lot, as I can’t do all the things that I am used to doing…I am in pain a lot, and I have succumbed to taking Darvocet at night, in order to get any sleep.
    My days are pretty good, taking a couple of ALEVE most days…I also take lots of herbs and antioxidants…I also 20-30 minutes of PILATES most days…I feel pretty well, but I am wondering if anyone out there is coping with hip arthritis as I am, and if anyone is managing better or differently than I am…I also get depressed because accepting the life style change is quite challenging for me, as I have always been very active…I would love to hear from others with the same problem…

  • Nancy D.

    I have been losing and gaining afew pounds, back and forth, for years now. Since I got married I have gained about 10 pounds, 6 years ago. My BMI is over 30 and my waist is 5 inches too large. I am pretty muscular. I like sports but also like to bake and eat carbs and sugars. Any suggestions? Do some of you have the same problem?

  • Diana

    I am struggling with depression,anxiety and fibromyalgia right now. I’m on meds but they don’t seem to help. I am starting an exercise program. Please pray for me. I need all the help I can get. Thank you!

  • Dianne

    Hi I am dx with bi-polar since 1995 and have been on vaious different meds. I am currently taking clonopin, luvox and nuerontin. I have been tired, lazy, no ambition. I am 52 yr old F and once was very ambitious, active and a go getter. I am also in recovery and attend at least 7 mtgs a week. I am sick and tired of waking up tired and NO ENERGY. My labs are all within normal range. Any suggestions?

  • sky mama

    i think exercise helps my arthritis…i do have arthritis…make sure you are going to a good rheumatologist…i was seeing a mediocre one when this first hit a year ago and have since found a better doc (rheumatologist). that would be my recommendation to find someone who will do thorough testing and be respectful of what you tell them. the pain is TOUGH–i use pray meditation, slowign down and good boundaries and goals

  • Burn Belly Fat

    Nice.. Indeed exercise helps a lot.. it improves our well being..
    thanks for sharing..

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