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Exercise for depression

Being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active.

Regular exercise can boost your mood if you have depression, and it's especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.

How often do you need to exercise?

To stay healthy, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week.

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If you have not exercised for a while, start gradually and aim to build up towards achieving 150 minutes a week.

Any exercise is better than none and even a brisk 10-minute walk can clear your mind and help you relax. Find out more about walking for health.

How to get started with exercise

Find an activity you can do regularly. You can take part in a team sport, attend classes at a leisure centre, or just be more active in your daily routine by walking or cycling instead of travelling by car or public transport.

Find out about different types of exercise and the benefits of being more active for fitness

Read about prevention and management of long-term conditions on the GOV.UK website

Find fitness advice for wheelchair users

Find local exercise classes and sports clubs

If being outdoors appeals to you, Green Gym projects, run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), provide exercise for people who do not like the idea of the gym or indoor exercise classes. To find out more, visit the TCV website.

If you like walking, groups such as Ramblers Wellbeing Walks can support people who have health problems, including mental health conditions.

Exercise on prescription

If you have not exercised for a long time or are concerned about the effects of exercise on your body or health, ask a GP about exercise on prescription.

Lots of GP surgeries across the country prescribe exercise as a treatment for a range of conditions, including depression.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends group exercise as an option for people with mild to moderate depression. This is usually more than 1 session a week with a trained practitioner, for 10 weeks.

The GP can help you decide what type of activity will suit you. Depending on your circumstances and what's available locally, the exercise programme may be offered free or at a reduced cost.

Other help for depression

Many treatments are available for depression, including talking therapies, antidepressants and self-help of various kinds.

Find out more about treatment for depression

If you have been feeling down for a while and do not feel like your usual self, see a GP to discuss your symptoms.

They can tell you about the choice of treatments available for depression and help you decide what's best for you.

Find out how being active helps mental wellbeing

Audio: Self-help for low mood and depression

In this audio guide, a doctor explains what you can do to help yourself cope with low mood and depression.

Media last reviewed: 2 March 2024
Media review due: 2 March 2027

Page last reviewed: 7 September 2022
Next review due: 7 September 2025