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The Best Medicine is a Treadmill: How Daily Exercise Can Treat Depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9% of American adults live with depression. It’s also worth mentioning that a major depressive episode is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat people with moderate or severe depression. And while these drugs do offer some relief, they often come with some pretty nasty side effects such as:

  • headaches

  • nausea

  • trouble sleeping

  • dizziness

  • diarrhea

  • weakness and fatigue

  • anxiety

  • stomach upset

  • dry mouth

  • sexual problems such as low sex drive or erectile dysfunction

  • trouble urinating

  • fast heart rate

  • sweating

  • memory problems

  • fatigue

  • weight gain

That’s quite a list. The obvious problem is these side effects can make someone who is depressed feel even worse. But there is some good news.

Exercise Helps Beat Depression Naturally

Studies on exercise and depression are conclusive: Not only does exercise treat depression, it can also prevent it. Researchers from Duke University found exercise to be as effective as medicine. Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it also releases endorphins, which are the body’s own natural antidepressants. Exercise also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood. The really good news is, it only takes moderate exercise three times a week to reap the antidepressant benefits. You don’t have to train for a marathon or a triathlon to feel better. Here are a few exercise ideas to get you started:

Walk Your Dog

Take your dog(s) for a half-hour walk around the neighborhood. Not only will your body release endorphins but your dog’s health will also benefit from routine exercise.

Go for a Bike Ride

Family bike rides are a great way to bond and get a good workout at the same time. If the weather doesn’t permit outdoor biking, a stationary bike is a good investment.


Swimming is one of the absolute best total body exercises. As a bonus, the steady movements through water also has a naturally calming effect.

Walk at Lunch

Grab a few friends and/or colleagues on your lunch break and go for a half-hour walk.

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. Whatever form you like, commit to doing that at least three times a week and see if you don’t start to feel better.

You may also want to speak with a therapist, who can help you navigate your emotions and offer tools for coping. If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how one of our therapists at LifeBalance may be able to help. Call or text 603- 332-8000.





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