Top Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise When Feeling Depressed

Motivated to exercise when feeling depressed

Motivated to exercise when feeling depressed, that is a hard nut to crack. Especially when we know the mental health benefits of exercise.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks volumes regarding the challenge of motivating yourself to workout when depressed. If you’ve ever experienced depression, you may find it hard to motivate yourself to exercise.

I’ve had major depressive disorder(MDD) since my teen years. I can totally relate and understand. Here is a little ray of hope: you don’t need intense physical training to see results. Even small steps can help boost your motivation and make you feel better.

Scientific research and personal experience have shown this to be true. And we all know depression can lead to some bad stuff. Depression makes it hard to do the things you once enjoyed.

To overcome low mood, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and start exercising from wherever you are. You can’t force yourself to feel motivated instantly, but it’s like planting a seed that needs to be nurtured.

The goal is not to beat depression all at once but to develop a workout plan that takes into account your current state and gradually leads you toward your desired outcome.

Key Takeaways

  • Finding exercise motivation can start with setting intentions and making time, regardless of the starting point.
  • Simple activities, tailored to your level of comfort and energy, can lay the groundwork for a consistent exercise routine.
  • A plan that is flexible and responsive to your moods is essential for maintaining exercise habits during challenging times.
  • Remember, overcoming depression with exercise is a journey filled with small victories worth celebrating.
  • Boost your motivation by focusing on incremental progress and acknowledging each step forward.
  • Feeling motivated to exercise when depressed may take time.

Depression Affects Workout Motivation

Staying active through regular exercise is very important for managing health conditions. I’ve learned that physical exercise doesn’t just benefit the body; it helps my mind when I’m in a severe depression episode.

Finding motivation to exercise with depression can seem like a daunting, almost insurmountable challenge. The paradox is that while depression affects motivation, engaging in exercise can help to counteract those symptoms. Kind of a bitch isn’t it.

I have been deep into the problems of exercising with depression, and I’ve learned from health experts that working out can trigger a release of endorphins, our body’s own ‘feel-good’ chemicals, which act as natural stress and pain relievers. This can lead to an improved mood and a sense of well-being that is a relief for someone with a down mood.

A recent study in the U.S. regular physical activity may help people with depression to a degree that sometimes equals the effectiveness of antidepressants. According to the study active men and women show lower rates of depression.

But how do you start to exercise when depression is killing your motivation? For me, understanding this link is key. Recognizing that exercise may help me feel better sooner. That in and of itself gets me motivated to workout.

  • Starting with short walks around the neighborhood
  • Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of exercises
  • Finding workout programs I enjoy to make the thought of exercising less daunting
  • Listening to my body and adjusting the exercise to what feels doable on tough days

It is important to remember that starting or continuing an exercise program while dealing with depression isn’t about pushing through at the expense of one’s mental health; it’s about finding a balance where physical training becomes a supportive post rather than a pressure point.

Depression – Start Small with Your Exercise Program

Starting small may seem trivial, but it’s the cornerstone of building a habit. Instead of setting my sights on a gym for an hour, which can sometimes feel impossible, I aim for realistic goals that don’t overwhelm me. This approach makes it challenging enough to be rewarding yet attainable enough to keep me motivated. So, how do we transform these aims into action? Let’s look into some methods to get yourself to work out consistently.

Set Achievable Fitness Targets

I once read or heard, “The key to longevity in fitness is setting targets that don’t scare you away.” That’s why I start my day with something simple, after getting out of bed, I journal three things I’m grateful for, then I either go to the gym or take a stroll around the neighberhood. These little victories keep me moving forward, day by day, inching closer to a healthier me. You might consider starting your day similarly. It will get easier with time and be honest, set realistic goals.

Creating a Customized Exercise Plan

Customization is the name of the game when it comes to maintaining my drive. I create an exercise plan that fuels my interests and respects my energy levels. It might be cycling to my favorite tunes or fitting in a yoga session that relaxes my body and mind. This tailor-made approach ensures that I never find exercising to be punishment.

Incorporate Exercises into Routine Activities

The genius in forming a lasting habit that combines physical activity with daily tasks. I take the stairs and the longer way to my classroom or opt for a walk during a break. It’s remarkable how small changes can increase activity without causing extra work. What’s important is making the most of my time, ensuring every minute counts towards a healthier lifestyle.

Motivate Yourself To Work – Personalizing

When I think about my goals, I believe the key to maintaining a consistent program is ensuring it aligns with my feelings and energy levels. It’s about identifying the type of exercise that doesn’t just get me moving but also taps into a source of enjoyment.

This could mean different things on different days—some days, I might find an activity that gets my heart racing, whereas other days, a calming walk in nature might be exactly what I need to unwind. I also find it very helpful to track progress in the gym and on my walks. Logging the weights lifted or the steps taken.

Finding Your Fun in Fitness

Trying to discover ways to get motivated often leads me to try new and fun activities. I’ve learned that when my routine feels more like play, I’m more likely to stick with it. Sometimes, this can be as simple as playing ball with my dog or even taking a brisk walk in a beautiful park. Having a varied program ensures that I can choose an activity that suits my mood, making exercise not just a task but a highlight of my day.

Exploring Low-Impact Workouts

I lean towards low-impact options these days as they are kinder to my body but still effective. Engaging in a 20-minute treadmill session before I lift, riding a bike at the state park or around the neighborhood. I can still achieve my fitness objectives without the extra strain.  Connect with a personal trainer who can help tailor the experience to your needs and mood, making it a seamless part of your lifestyle.

  • Yoga Class – to balance mind and body
  • Pilates – for core strength and stability
  • Gentle cycling – for cardiovascular health without the impact
  • Walking outdoors is great when struggling with depression.

By personalizing my exercise routine this way, I’ve found that not only do I look forward to my sessions, but they also become a powerful tool in managing stress and enhancing my overall well-being.

Motivated to exercise when feeling depressed 1

Embracing Self-Compassion and Positive Self-Talk

When I’m feeling the weight of depression, it can make it difficult to be active, and getting myself around the block can seem monumental. In these moments, I start using the strength of self-talk, especially of the positive variety. Health professionals tout it, and I’ve experienced it: telling myself I’m doing well, even when it’s just a few steps more than yesterday, releases those feel-good chemicals that keep me coming back for more.

Sometimes, even the smallest commitment to my well-being, like stretching for a few minutes instead of scrolling through my phone, can significantly boost my motivation. I’ve learned that these small decisions add up, building on each other until I’ve built a positive habit of self-care and staying motivated in my fitness journey.

“You’ve got this. Every step is progress.” — It’s a mantra that I repeat to myself, one that keeps me grounded in self-compassion rather than self-criticism.

  • Reminding myself of the progress I’ve made.
  • Breaking activities into manageable pieces.
  • Celebrating the tiny victories.
  • Integrating rest as a part of my routine.

I believe in the importance of tuning into my body’s needs, recognizing that I sometimes need to rest and recuperate. By combining movement with mindfulness, I create a sustainable wellness routine that energizes me.

How to Get Motivated to Exercise When Feeling Depressed

When struggling with depression, motivating oneself to exercise can be a mental and physical challenge. The key to encouraging workout motivation, even amidst a loss of interest, is to hold you accountable to your fitness goals while finding joy in the journey.

Keeping a calendar is not just a practical organizational tool; it’s an act of asserting control over your time and intentions. I enter in my gym sessions, not as optional appointments but as non-negotiable commitments, and it’s this act of scheduling serves as a reminder—a pat on the back, if you will—to keep promises to myself.

  • Utilize the “5-second rule” to shift from inertia to action when you start feeling overwhelmed by the thought of exercising.
  • Associate exercise with happy experiences, such as listening to your favorite podcast while jogging, to transform it from a chore into a treat.
  • Acknowledge your efforts—give yourself a literal or figurative pat on the back after each session to reinforce positive behavior.

Sadly, depression can make isolation seem like the only option. Yet, the social aspect of a workout buddy or attending group classes can make all the difference; it makes you feel accountable to someone. When motivation from within wanes, external encouragement and company come into play, helping to overcome those tough days.

In my fitness journey, ways to get moving have been as important as the exercise. Making simple changes to my surroundings, such as preparing my workout clothes the night before, has helped me overcome obstacles to exercising. This approach has proven to be effective in helping me stay on track with my fitness goals.

Small changes can make a big difference in creating a welcoming environment for exercise and developing a love for physical activity despite depression. A positive association with physical activity can be formed by establishing a consistent exercise habit.

Remember that every journey starts with a single step, and a step taken is an achievement in itself. It’s about progress, not perfection. It isn’t always easy when you’re feeling down, set small goals, go for a short walk even if you don’t feel like it. When you do feel better find a workout that you enjoy!

And if you continue to struggle please seek help.


When I think about how adding exercise to my life has helped me deal with depression, I realize how important it is to acknowledge my successes, no matter how small. I am proud of every step I take, every set I complete, and every time I choose to move instead of staying still. With the help of professionals, and perhaps with the encouragement of a buddy, I’ve learned to weave exercise into my routine to foster resilience and empowerment. Staying active becomes a celebration of my capacity to face adversity.

I highly encourage you to put exercise into your routine, exercise is better than staying home, watching Netflix, and feeling miserable for us depressed people. 

Celebrating the Small Victories

It’s easy to overlook the power of a victory as seemingly small as listening to music that lifts my spirits while taking a brisk walk. But it’s exactly these triumphs that release those endorphins, serving as a natural combatant to depression and anxiety. Each incremental fitness goal I achieve contributes to an improved fitness level, making every subsequent step a little easier and more ingrained into the fabric of my daily existence.

Maintaining a Long-term Perspective on Fitness and Mental Health

A long-term perspective is my anchor; it reminds me that this is not just about the immediate boost post-exercise but a sustainable path toward better mental health and physical well-being. As health professionals emphasize, integrating exercise isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon, pacing oneself to ensure this becomes a lifelong journey rather than a fleeting endeavor. It takes patience, yes, but the clarity of mind, the decrease in depressive and anxious feelings, and the overall vitality that I gain are invaluable dividends I’m amply awarded over time.

And so, I continue, motivated by the knowledge that with each day, each minute of exercise, I am stronger physically and mentally.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
I occasionally send out a newsletter with news and or information I think might be helpful. I also throw out the occasional affiliate link to keep this website running.