5 ways to motivate yourself to exercise when you’re depressed

While some people can’t skip a day of exercise, others struggle to find the motivation to do some cardio or lift weights. Finding the internal push to work out can be even harder if you’re dealing with depression. Major depressive disorder, or depression, causes people to feel overwhelming moods of sadness. This condition can also make you feel hopeless and cause you to lack the energy to do anything, let alone jumping jacks or pushups. 

Fortunately, there are still ways to motivate yourself to exercise even if you’re struggling with depression.  

5 ways to motivate yourself to exercise while depressed

We’ve all heard about the physical and mental benefits of exercise (more on those later), but sometimes that’s just not enough.

If you’re struggling to find the internal encouragement needed to exercise due to depression, here are a few ways to get started:

  • Build up energy — The idea of a hike or a 30-minute spin class can be intimidating, especially if you’re struggling to find the energy to do anything, let alone exercise. It’s best to dip your toe in before diving straight into it. You can start with something relatively undemanding that gets you moving to build up your energy and motivation. This can be simple tasks like chores around the house or running quick errands.
  • Involve friends and family — There are many activities that are better with company, and exercise can be one of them. Many people feel motivated to be productive and active if they see others doing so as well. Joining your neighbor for their daily walk around the neighborhood or asking your family to bike ride on the weekend are great options.
  • Set goals — Making an easily manageable exercise plan can help you make small steps that lead to larger milestones. Writing down obtainable goals can help you effectively visualize accomplishing them. For example, walking to the end of your street once a week can eventually develop into lightly jogging that same distance. And you can increase that pace over weeks, or even months. 
  • Distract yourself — One of the reasons why it can be hard to work out is because we can get so focused on the pain and exhaustion we may be feeling. Listening to music, podcasts or even audiobooks can keep your mind focused on something besides the unpleasant feelings your body may be having at the moment.
  • Find inspiration online — When we scroll through our phones, we see content from every corner of the internet, including the world of fitness. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of influencers on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok who have made it their mission to help people exercise. They prove that you can work out in ways you wouldn’t normally think about, like using playground equipment or dancing to your favorite hits.

It’s always easier said than done, but putting these methods into action can help you get the exercise needed to fight your depression by helping your mental, emotional and physical health all at once.

How can exercise help with depression?

Endorphins that are released from exercise can alleviate some of the negative emotions that are prevalent in people with depression. Endorphins are chemicals released in the brain that cause a short-term feeling of elation or euphoria.

Despite the stress and slight, temporary pain or discomfort that it inflicts on your body, exercise has been proven to release endorphins in the brain. While exercise is the most common way to release endorphins, they can also come from eating or getting a massage.

Having depression makes it especially difficult to find the motivation needed to work out, as it can cause a decrease in energy levels. It can also mean that you don’t find enjoyment in the same activities as you used to, which, for some, could be for physical activities like playing sports. But there are quite a few ways that exercise can improve your mental health:

  • Providing stress relief
  • Improving memory and thinking 
  • Boosting self-confidence
  • Enhancing overall mood
  • Improving sleep

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help you rediscover your motivation to exercise

While exercise is a fantastic method of helping with your depression, our team of licensed, clinical experts are here to give you the additional support and resources you need to navigate your treatment journey. We offer four programs: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to find your motivation again, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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