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Published: June 24, 2021

Why exercise may help ease depression | Health

JUST LIKE SELENA GOMEZ said, “If I don’t work out ... everything about me just feels a bit down,” a lot of folks rely on exercise to banish the blues.

Now neuroscientists from the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research into Mental Illness have found out how exercise does that oh-so-welcome magic trick. They discovered that, in mice, exercise stimulates the production of a molecule called lactate. It then acts as an antidepressant by helping cool excess brain oxidation and inflammation, nourishing neurons and even stimulating the growth of new nerve connections.

Other studies show exercise triggers the release of proteins called growth factors that also stimulate new nerve cell growth. This combo of benefits pushes back against the loss of neurons that’s associated with depression in people and stress in animals.

A “runners high” from the release of endorphins may create pleasing feelings, but for sustained improvement in depressive symptoms, it’s the other biochemical factors that make the biggest difference.

For many folks with mild depression, the greatest benefit comes with almost daily low- to moderate-intensity exercise.

So commit to walking 10,000 steps or the equivalent daily, enjoy aerobic sports like tennis or activities like tai chi and cycling. And for chronic or severe depression, make sure to get help fast: Consult a doctor who can help with talk/group therapy and medication. You are not alone.

Bonus tip: A genetic study of 840,000 people found that going to bed one hour earlier than usual decreases your risk of major depression by 23%.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit

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