Managing Depression With Exercise: Walking

Managing Depression With Exercise Walking

Walk Away From Depression

Increasing physical activity can help relieve depression, and walking is an easy way to get more exercise. Here’s how to get started.

Plenty of research has shown that increasing physical activity can help relieve depression. And it doesn’t take a lot of exercise to make a difference. Getting just 30 minutes of physical activity three to five times a week can help boost your mood. In fact, some research suggests that exercise may work as well as medication at reducing depression for some people. The best results come from combining activity with antidepressants or psychotherapy.

If you have depression, it may be hard to think about launching into an exercise program. But it can be much easier to do than you think. Just lace up your shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. Before long, you could find yourself walking away from depression.

Why walk?

Many people with depression find walking is the ideal way to increase their activity level. Walking has a lot of advantages:

  • Walking is cheap and easy to do. You don’t have to join a gym. It doesn’t require any special skills, training or equipment. All it really takes is a decent pair of shoes.
  • You can do it almost anywhere. You can go outside and walk on sidewalks or trails if the weather is nice. If not, you can walk inside at a mall, on a treadmill or around the halls of your workplace.
  • It has a very low risk of injury compared to many types of exercise.
  • It can help both your mental and physical health. Besides reducing depression, walking can also improve muscle tone, lower blood pressure and help control weight.

Getting started

Ready to give walking a try? Before you start, check with your doctor, who can tell you a safe level of activity.

If you haven’t been active, it’s best to start slow and gradually increase your time. You might start with a five- or 10-minute walk and work up to 30 minutes or more at a time. Try to do this at least three times a week, but four or five times is better. How often you walk seems to be more important than how long when it comes to decreasing depression.

Try these tips to help you succeed:

  • Plan for it. Choose a time when you can fit in a walk, like over your lunch hour or after work, and then stick to it. If you can’t do 30 minutes at a time, break it into two 15-minute walks or three 10-minute ones. That’s just as good.
  • Keep a record. Write down when you walk and for how long. This will let you see your progress, which can be motivating.
  • Find a walking buddy. This can be especially important if depression has caused you to withdraw from people. Having someone to walk with can help you stay motivated on the tough days.
  • Think like a walker. Look for ways to make walking a natural part of your day. Maybe you could walk your kids to school. You might get off the bus before your stop and walk the rest of the way. Or skip the elevator and walk a few flights of stairs.
  • Remember, some is better than none. When you’re depressed, there are days when it’s hard to think of getting out of bed. But even a five- or 10-minute walk is much better than not moving at all. Remind yourself that every step you take is another step toward getting well.

Walking may not be the best exercise for everyone. If you find you aren’t feeling better in a few weeks, try another activity. You might get better results from running, dancing, yoga or weightlifting. The key is to find something you enjoy and will do routinely.

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