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A Brighter Outlook with Exercise

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friends high fiving while exercising

Depression is a common mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, difficulty focusing on tasks and changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Depression can be caused by a variety of circumstances, medical conditions and even the onset of colder winter months. The good news is there is an all-natural remedy that can help relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety that you may be overlooking–exercise!

Exercise = Brighter Outlook on Life

Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Laura Alton, PT, explains that people who don’t exercise regularly typically find it more difficult to manage stress and stabilize their mood. “When we perform moderate exercise, our bodies produce hormones known as endorphins,” said Alton. “Endorphins give us a natural high and make us feel happier from the inside out!” 

Professional Fitness Trainer Debi Wilkins, MS, elaborates on the concept of endorphins saying, “They not only put you in a better mood, but encourage you to interact with others, get involved in activities and adventures outside your comfort zone.” In turn you improve your self-confidence from working hard and reaching your fitness goals.

Best Types of Exercise for Depression Relief

All types of exercise are helpful for relieving depression and anxiety to some degree by reducing stress, increasing alertness and concentration as well as improving sleep quality. So when our experts are asked which exercise is best for relieving depression symptoms, they recommend whatever type of exercise you enjoy doing. Professional Fitness Trainer Stephanie Hill states, “Studies show that walking, running, riding the stationary bike and resistance training are especially beneficial for elevating your mood because of the push and pull motions that put your muscles to work and get your heart rate up.” 

Low-impact and low-intensity exercise such as yoga and Pilates also benefit the body and mind with the combination of mindfulness and physical movement. The meditation component allows you to clear your mind and be present in the moment. The controlled, focused, rhythmic movements center on breathing, core strength and building lean muscle. This helps stretch tense muscles and strengthen the body-mind connection. Yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin levels, which are major contributors to feelings of overall well-being and happiness and play a role in the treatment of depression according to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

The Exercise Prescription

Following Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s recommendation to participate in physical activity 30 minutes per day to achieve an optimal 150 minutes per week has proven to significantly reduce symptoms of depression “Even exercising in small increments of 10-15 minutes at a time can make a difference,” Alton says. Wilkins strongly suggests starting out slow and steady if you are not used to a regular exercise routine.

Our Experts’ Favorites

“It’s about learning your body and knowing exactly what type of activity takes you to a healthier place mentally,” Hill says. Our experts’ go-to-exercises for relieving stress and clearing their minds are:

• Wilkins enjoys outdoor activities such as biking, running and exploring hiking trails. She also likes 30-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions that get her heart rate up. 

• Hill’s personal favorite stress-relieving exercise is running. “It allows me to organize my thoughts and stress while I’m running,” says Hill. 

• Alton loves nature and enjoys any type of activity that gets her outside. Her favorites include mountain biking or going on a good trail run or hike.

Exercise you enjoy—regardless of the type—relieves depression symptoms and anxiety. It helps shift your focus off your circumstances while challenging your body physically.


For more information about Cooper Fitness Center or to schedule a session with a Professional Fitness Trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.