Treating Depression with Exercise or Medication?

Bing happy takes work. Treating depressions with exericise can be effective. Some would even say more then medication. But I’ll let you decide that for yourself!

Depression is a condition where a person has extended bouts of feeling sad, hopeless, discouraged and all emotions related to a general disinterest in life. Having these unhappy emotions for brief periods of time (days or a few weeks) most likely is a normal case of “the blues” but extended periods, stretching months or years might be considered clinical depression. If a person’s emotional state interferes with their ability to perform normal daily activities, such as spending time with family, going to school or work, or even getting out of bed, it’s likely a depressive episode is occurring.

Depression affects the way a person feels, behaves, thinks and functions. Depression is the most common mental disorder in America and is treatable. In 2014, it was found that around 15.8 million adults, 18 years of age and older had suffered a major depressive episode within the last year. It was also found that 2 percent of young children and 8 percent of teens suffered as well.

Treating Depression with Exercise

Exercise to Battle Depressions

It has been proven that exercising is an effective approach to battling depression and anxiety. Will going on a jog from time to time cure you? Probably not. Finding and sticking to a workout routine might drastically improve your life. 

It seems America has adopted the culture that there is a pill to solve any problem. Xanax for stress, Zoloft for depression, and Adderall for ADHD. Although these medications can be effective, in many cases the list of negative side effects outweigh their benefits. Often pills are not the answer, the natural option is. 

A Study on Exercising and Depression

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999, a group of 156 men and women with severe to mild depression were divided into three different groups. The first group took part in a consistent aerobic workout routine. The second group was given an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/depression medication). The third group was given both. After 16 weeks all three groups reported a significant improvement in symptoms and some no longer qualified to be labeled depressed at all. Although the study showed that those who took the SSRI’s had a quicker relief from depression symptoms, the groups that took part in the fitness routine had longer lasting effects. It was found that those who exercise regularly after the study, regardless of which group they were in during, were less likely to fall back into depression. Many other studies have been performed yielding similar results.

Treating Depression with Exercise

Why does exercise relieve depression? Experts have had a good idea for a while. They know that exercising improves the activity of endorphins, a chemical in the brain that positively affects mood. They also theorize that exercise stimulates the norepinephrine neurotransmitters, which are also believed to improve mood. Sticking with an exercise routine for an extended amount of time has proved to build confidence.

Working Out to Beat Depression               

Exercise and How it Applies to Life

Not giving up on your fitness goals and seeing progress is a great way of showing yourself examples on how you can overcome something through hard work. Accomplishing goals in the gym can provide confidence in tackling other goals in all aspects of your life. Working out can also be a very therapeutic outlet. Like meditating, working out has been shown to slow thinking down a bring on mindfulness. Having that little break in the day to take your mind off what is getting you down can positively affect the rest of the day.

Exercise is all around good for your health! Curing and preventing health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and many other varying health conditions. It’s no secret that improved health can intern improve your mood. Battling depression is more difficult when one’s health is diminished as well. So how often should someone exercise to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety? Experts recommend 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise 4-6 days a week.

Treating Depression and Anxiety Through Medication

We know the effects of exercise on depression and anxiety, and the benefits across the board on improving and preventing health issues, but what do we know about taking medication to treat the depression? SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most common medications prescribed to battle depression. SSRI’s work by increasing the amount of serotonin created in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects mood, behavior, sleep, sex drive, digestion, and memory. SSRI’s block the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. In many, SSRI’s have been proven to work, but there is a list of negative side effects that can come with the drug.

Negative Side Effects

What are some of the negative side effects of taking an SSRI? Symptoms ranging from problems sleeping, loss of sex drive or sexual dysfunction, feeling groggy, increased depression/suicidal thinking, weight gain, and a list of physical symptoms such as joint pain, muscle aches, etc. The most common early side effect of the drug is nausea and headaches. Patients tend to develop a tolerance for these side effects and rarely have to discontinue the medication due to them. The most common long-term side effect and the most common reason for discontinuing the medication are due to sexual side effects. Studies show that 60 percent of patients over time develop some kind of sexual dysfunction due to taking the medication. 

Treating Anxiety With Medication is Often a Mistake

Anxiety is another mood disorder that like depression can be fought effectively by exercising regularly. Medications such as Xanax, a benzodiazepine, are commonly prescribed to alleviate anxiety. As alarming as SSRI’s negative side effects can be, the side effects of benzodiazepines can be much worse. Common side effects of benzodiazepines are reduced inhibition, impaired judgment, poor coordination, hostility, irritability, and drowsiness. Due to their calming and intoxicating effects when taken in sufficient doses, benzodiazepines can be addictive. Side effects from Benzodiazepines worsen with abuse and over time, making them dangerous. Mixing alcohol with Benzodiazepines multiplies its effects. It is common for someone mixing alcohol and benzo’s to have episodes where they act irrationally with no recollection of what they did (blacking out). This can lead to an overdose and even death. Benzodiazepines can come with a detrimental cost.

Other Natural Ways to Treat Depression and Anxiety

I think it is obvious that exercise is a safer and healthier way of going about dealing with depression and anxiety than taking medication. Though there are many cases where medication is a must, it’s smart to explore natural methods of making a recovery first, before deciding to medicate. So what are some other natural ways to deal with depression and anxiety?

Eating a Healthy Diet

Often a person’s physical health has a large influence on their psychological health. It is one reason why exercise to combat depression can be so effective. Research has also found a huge connection between the gut flora/bacteria found in the stomach and its effect on a person’s mood. A healthy gut flora leads to a calmer happier person. An unbalanced/unhealthy gut flora leads to a more stressed and unhappy person. What influences the state of someone’s gut flora? Diet plays a huge role. Having a healthy and balanced diet is a great place to start to have a healthy/balanced gut flora.


Often the underlying issues causing depression are best dealt with a professional or in some kind of therapeutic support group. Depression is complicated. There is no one size fits all treatment. Seeking professional help might be your best way to figure out what is going on and the right way of going about treating it.


Meditation in many forms has been proven to be effective in relieving depression symptom. Taking even 20 minutes a day to meditate can have significant positive effects. Irritability and overthinking can play a large role in depression. Practicing mindfulness and taking time out of your day to slow your thinking down can alleviate the feeling of a frantic mind. Living in the moment, rather than the past and the future can be the answer to defeating depression and anxiety for many.

Get a Pet

Pets have been shown to be effective in battling depression. Having something outside yourself to take care of can take your mind off yourself and what’s getting you down. Not feeling loved and needed may be a root cause of depression and a pet’s unconditional love can be the perfect remedy. Dogs can also be a great motivation to get you up and moving. Having an active dog who requires exercise is a great way to force someone who tends to isolate themselves, to get outside.

Depression is complicated and treatment often involves multiple actions. Sometimes medication is needed but in many cases, it can be overcome naturally. Choosing the natural way, in the end, maybe a healthier route. Many doctors are too quick to prescribe a pill to solve the problem. Seeking professional help where medication isn’t the immediate answer is important.