The Best Exercises to Do When Depressed

September 26, 2022

Sadness may rapidly undermine your fitness objectives and make working out less motivating. When your mind and heart are out of sync, even simple physical tasks like making your bed and preparing a healthy breakfast don't rank high on your list of priorities. According to a thorough study on exercise and mental health, researchers discovered that exercise could change how your brain functions and decrease your depression and anxiety. The following five exercises have a strong potential to improve your mood and boost your motivation.

30 Minutes of Meditation + 30 Minutes of Walking

According to a study published in Translational Psychiatry, spending roughly 60 minutes split between cardio and meditation can considerably reduce depression and ruminative thoughts. To replicate the method used with study participants, practice sitting meditation for 20 minutes. Next, walk carefully for the next ten minutes, paying close attention to your feet as you change from one to the other. Prepare your body for the aerobic portion of the workout, this enables blood to flow to your extremities.

After the meditation session and the gentle warm-up, go for a 30-minute walk to get your heart rate up to 50 to 70 percent. You can measure your heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), throughout this 30-minute cardio session (researchers advise a five-minute warm-up and cool-down). Your maximal age-related heart rate is the outcome.

30-Minute Tai Chi Session

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is performed all over the world for its health advantages. According to a peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, a mindfulness physical activity like Tai Chi can give excellent mental health changes—even more than greater impact workouts. The goal of the exercise is to achieve inner peace through a series of slow, gentle movements involving the breath, the mind, and physical activity.

The National Health Service advises beginning a Tai Chi practice by watching a class or attending a free trial session before enrolling in a course because there are no official standards for the practice. Tai chi training programs vary because there are no official standards, but all practices are intended to strengthen your muscles and improve blood flow. Local classes are available from individual instructors, gyms, and community leisure programs.

A Series of Hatha Yoga Movements

The benefits of yoga for mental wellness are well known. Hatha yoga, a style of yoga that teaches physical postures, was found to be effective in lowering feelings of depression in a systematic review of yoga aimed at improving sadness and depressive symptoms. You can perform the following five hatha yoga poses in a series or on their own to combat sadness:

Child's Pose

Your body can relax and feel at peace when you take a forward-folding seated position, like the child's pose. Your torso will be more open, and you'll feel more in tune with your breathing. Almost all yoga practices use this as a common resting position.

Downward Facing Dog

By shifting pressure on your crown, the inverted stance known as "Downward Facing Dog" helps to calm your emotions and mood. For those who are unfamiliar, keep in mind that inverted poses place the head below the heart. If your hamstrings don't stretch out, bend your knees.

Bridge Pose

Pose variations that expand your chest will make you feel joyful and confident. In the bridge position, your knees should be bent and your hips should be lifted. This improves posture, enables your chest to open up from its tucked-in position, builds mental confidence, and keeps depressive sensations at bay.

Corpse Pose

The corpse pose, commonly referred to as Savasana or the relaxation pose, is the pinnacle of relaxation. It is the last pose performed after practically all yoga sessions. For the best advantages, you should stay in the pose for five to ten minutes.

Headstand—An Advanced Move

For more experienced yoga practitioners, the Sirsasana, or headstand pose, is an inversion that can help fight depression by having a good impact on your emotional center and assisting in lowering the production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

Because it engages several body components, including your shoulders, head, hamstrings, spine, and core, the position also energizes the body. If a headstand is too difficult for your current yoga level, you can alter the practice by practicing it against a wall or employing a spotter to grip your feet and legs. The headstand also requires a general capacity to balance throughout your entire body.

10-Minute Balance Routine

Researchers discovered that even 10 minutes of physical activity improved moods in a comprehensive review on the association between exercise and happiness published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Balance exercises were found to be successful in attaining these heightened feelings in randomized controlled trials. The best balance exercises for happiness include:

Walking Heel-to-Toe

Start by walking forward heel to toe in a stable, neutral position with your head held up and your eyes gazing forward 10 to 12 feet. Repeat this movement five times. Walking heel to toe opens up the heart and makes you conscious of your posture for better confidence, similar to chest expansion poses in yoga.

Toe Walks

You can exercise various leg muscles by taking 10 steps while keeping your toes off the ground. Repeating this practice should take a few minutes. In a study on balance exercises, such as toe walking, researchers discovered that a balance training program enhanced self-efficacy and walking speed, but even better, participants found the exercises interesting and pleasurable. If you feel any tension in your feet, limit yourself to a few steps.


To hoist yourself up and achieve balance during this workout, you must be seated in a chair at the beginning. Your legs, hips, and core are worked during this sit-to-stand exercise. This technique is simple, but there are benefits to your brain health, according to published studies. You should perform it ten times. Standing helps to enhance blood circulation and oxygenate the brain, keeping it active and focused on the exercise.

Straight Leg Raises

Keep your core tight and your knees straight as you lift one leg up and backward to start a straight leg raise. As your thigh rises off the ground, make an effort to maintain a straight knee. After two seconds, lift and then lower your leg. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) claims that including balance exercises like the straight leg raise can increase your overall energy expenditure and enhance your capacity to perform the activities you enjoy. You can perform this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

50-Minute Walk in Nature

When you're feeling down, a study on the health advantages of exercise and nature advises you to head to the nearest green hills. Researchers measured changes in participants' positive and negative affect, anxiety, and perceived stress before and after participants underwent a 50-minute walk on a forest path, a 50-minute walk along a busy road, and a period of performing typical daily activities. The highest improvement in psychological condition was found during forest walks, according to the results. To ensure your safety in the forest, the CDC suggests:

  • In the summer, choose routes that are shaded or close to waterways.
  • Deliver water. You'll need to drink more when the weather is cold.
  • Bring a companion so that you have more support (and the mental health benefits of friendship).
  • Use support. Your legs and knees may feel less strain if you use a trekking stick.

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