According to research from in June of 2022 around 22.4% of US adults reported symptoms of depression in the past week. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot! 

Did you also know that depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44?

Pretty scary, huh?

Anti-depressants are the most common form of medication prescribed to treat moderate or severe symptoms of depression. And while these drugs do offer some relief, they often come with some challenging 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, erectile dysfunction, or ejaculation problems
  • Trouble urinating
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain


If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, you might be wondering, “And this is supposed to make me feel better?“

The obvious problem here is the side effects can make someone who is depressed feel even worse.

But there’s good news.

Exercise helps Symptoms of depression naturally

Many studies on exercise and depression are conclusive: Not only does exercise treat depression, it can also help to prevent it! In fact, researchers from Duke University found exercise to be as effective as medication!

Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it also releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural anti-depressants. Exercise also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which help lift your mood.

The even better news is, it only takes moderate exercise 3 times a week to reap the anti-depressant benefits. You don’t have to train for a marathon or a triathlon to feel better.

Here’s a few simple ideas for exercises to help get you started:

Take The Dog For a Walk


Taking regular walks is a great way to tackle the symptoms of depression. Just keep the phone at home, grab the leash and hit the road!

Taking your dog for a half-hour walk around the neighborhood is a great way to get some exercise and some natural vitamin D. Not only will your body release endorphins but your dog’s health will also benefit from routine exercise. 

Pro tip: Leave the phone at home and enjoy the outdoors, the weather, and the natural environment. It makes me sad when I see people walking around my neighborhood with their faces glued to their phones while their dog pulls at them – completely oblivious to their surrounding environment. Also, not super safe considering most of the people driving around are glued to their phones too. ????‍♂️

Go for a bike ride


Exercise is among the best forms of treatment for symptoms of depression and bike riding is a great way to get plenty of exercise.

Family (or solo) bike rides are a great way to bond and get a good work out at the same time. If the weather doesn’t permit outdoor biking, a stationary bike is a good investment. There’s a reason why Peloton is so successful and popular.

Go For A Swim


No, not this type of swimming. Although it does look pretty relaxing, huh? Do this after you get some good laps in and get the heart rate going.

Swimming is one of the absolute best total body exercises. As a bonus, the steady movements throughout the water also have a natural calming effect. Even more, swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise since it takes impact stress off your body. There’s a reason why it’s often the go-to for Physical Therapists as their primary rehabilitation protocol.

Walk On Your Lunch Break


Don’t be like this guy. Put the phone away, take some nice deep breaths and just walk briskly.

Grab a few friends or colleagues on your lunch break and go for a half hour walk. Again, leave the phone and enjoy the outdoors and the conversation. Don’t want to be bothered with your coworkers at lunch break? (Don’t blame you!) That’s fine. Leave them in their cubicles to stare at their phones and go for a walk by yourself.

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. In fact if it is, the chances of you sticking with it drop considerably. Whatever form you like, commit to doing that at least three times a week and see if you don’t start to feel better. Other great ideas to get additional exercise are:

  • Parking at the end of the parking lot
  • Use the stairs not the elevator whenever possible
  • Leave the car keys at home and walk or bike when possible and weather permitting

Depression is no joke. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms of depression and exercise and medication isn’t cutting it, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you get back to your best self.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.