Exercise is about more than keeping
in shape. It also can help with your emotional and mental health. Exercise can
help you improve your self-esteem, keep your mind off problems, and give you a
sense of control. In general, people who are fit have less
depression, and stress than people who are not
Research suggests that exercise
can help specific mental health problems. Exercise may help prevent depression
from coming back (relapse) and improve symptoms of mild
Be safe while you exercise
Moderate exercise is safe
for most people, but it's a good idea to talk with your doctor before increasing
your activity. Anyone age 65 or older should talk with a doctor before
Start slowly, and gradually increase how much
Stop exercising if you have severe pain, especially
chest pain, or severe problems breathing. Talk with your doctor about these
People who are likely to have high anxiety or panic may
have an episode during exercise because of the buildup of certain body
chemicals (such as lactic acid) from exercise. If you have any problems during
exercise, talk with your doctor.
Tips for being active
It can be hard to be active
when you feel depressed or anxious or have a mental health problem. But
activity can help you feel better, so do your best to find a way to be active.
It's fine to start with small steps. You can build up from a few minutes a
Don't overdo it. Start with simple exercises,
such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or jogging.
Warm up your
muscles for about 5 minutes before you start exercising. To do this, you can
walk, slowly move your arms and legs, or do simple muscle stretches.
Use the talk-sing test to see whether you're exercising at the
If you can talk during exercise, you're
If you can sing during exercise, you can exercise a
little faster or harder.
If you are not able to talk, you're
probably exercising too hard. Slow down a bit.
Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes after you exercise.
It's okay to do some stretching exercises during cooldown.
water before, during, and after exercise.
Get regular exercise but
not within 3 or 4 hours of your bedtime. This might make it hard to fall
You can make daily activities part of your exercise
program. You can:
Walk to work or to do
Push a lawn mower, rake leaves, or shovel
Vacuum or sweep.
Play actively with your
children, or walk the dog.
Do your best to slowly work up to
moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week.
Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting
baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your
heart rate can be included. Find a pace that is
comfortable. You can be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your
day and week.
If you have problems exercising on your own, ask
someone to exercise with you or join an exercise group or health club.
Buchner DM (2012). Physical activity. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 56–58. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Wiles NJ, et al. (2007). Physical activity and common
mental disorders: Results from the Caerphilly study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 165(8): 946–954.
Cipriani A, et al. (2011). Depression in adults (drug and other physical treatments), search date June 2009. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.