In a healthy body lives a healthy mind: How sport can help overcome depression

Acute depression robs you of strength and energy. Even the most mundane tasks are perceived as very strenuous by those affected. How can you make the effort to do sports? One thing in advance: it doesn’t have to be a marathon or lifting a 100 kilogram dumbbell. Even light and enjoyable sports activities play an enormous role in the treatment and thus help to overcome depression!

With sport out of the vicious circle of depression

We are aware from an early age that sports are healthy. In addition to the positive influence on physical health, e.g., on the cardiovascular system, the psyche also benefits from physical activity (Müller, 2013; Ledermann et al., 2018). Any kind of exercise activates body and mind and can awaken new energies. In depression, it is typical to have reduced enjoyment and interest in activities. Leaden fatigue and loss of energy also characterize the clinical picture (diagnostic criteria according to ICD-10).

A vicious circle is underway: sports that used to be a lot of fun lose their appeal. Lethargy and lack of strength spread and dominate the day. There is hardly any room for the thought of exercise next to permanent brooding, and even with good intentions it is difficult to get up.

The result is, among other things:

  • Self-reproach
  • Depressed mood
  • Inertia
  • General amplification of depression symptomatology

Sports activities, no matter how small, can break this vicious circle and thus help to overcome depression. A brisk walk in the fresh air, a few laps in the water, light stretching exercises or yoga? Once a start has been made, energy is released for the next workout. A 2018 study by the Hannover Medical School shows that targeted workouts significantly improved the health of depressed patients, and participants also became more motivated. All beginnings may be difficult, but it is worth it!

In a healthy body lives a healthy mind.

Get active – but do it right!

Once the first hurdles have been overcome, sport can help step by step to overcome depression. Regular exercise leads to a more upright posture, which has a positive influence on the general mood. Those who stay upright feel more activated right away (Nair et al., 2015). Especially in a group, exercise provides fun and new social contacts can develop. Often, depression leads to loneliness in those affected.

They meet fewer acquaintances and friends and rarely socialize. When exercising in a nice group, you not only work up a sweat together, but also quickly get into conversation! Restless thoughts can come to rest during physical activity and sometimes a sweaty workout helps to get rid of the often existing frustration about the mental illness.

The dreaded morning low

Many depression patients know and fear the so-called “morning low.” Fresh air at an early hour can put an end to this and make the start of the day easier. Physical activity is often followed by the pleasant feeling of having accomplished something and done something good for oneself and one’s body. But be careful – sport should not become another stress factor. After all, depression can have its roots in severe stress, so that another stressor would be counterproductive for treatment (Wittchen & Hoyer, 2006). Overstraining should be avoided at all costs, otherwise resources for the further overcoming process of depression will be attacked.

Overall, depression patients can (re)find a good balance between tension and relaxation with a balanced sports program. According to a recent US study, sport is also of enormous importance in relapse prevention. Jogging for as little as 15 minutes a day can help prevent a recurrence of depression (Choi et al., 2019).

Sport in the Care of Mentally Ill People

In many psychosomatic clinics, sports activities play an important role in the treatment concept alongside psychotherapy and medication. In the spirit of holistic therapy, various methods are combined to initiate the best possible recovery. In the area of sports, patients are accompanied by academic sports scientists who, through their studies, have a great deal of experience in training support and counseling. They are trained in dealing with psychologically stressed people and show responsibility and empathy in this respect.

Various sports offer as support

The sports on offer often range from aqua fitness to alternative sports such as archery. At the structured sports concept LIMES Sports.Care, patients can try boxing or even stand-up paddling on the lake, for example. The program is individually and optimally tailored to the respective needs and is intended to support those affected in overcoming their depression.

Practical Tips & Tricks – Overcoming Depression

Is the spirit of sport awakened? You can make the start easier by using little tricks: arranging to do sport with acquaintances or fellow patients can have a motivating effect and increase commitment. A structured daily routine, in which sporting activity is firmly scheduled, helps to create a routine. To further nourish the sporting spirit, it is important for depression patients to know that psychotherapy and medication alone are not enough to cope with the illness. Affected individuals need holistic treatment that makes lasting lifestyle changes. Sport is a valuable component in building a healthy life free of depression.

Finding your own sport

Of course, gyms or sports facilities are not for everyone. Small sporting activities can also be incorporated at home: For example, how about a crisp 7-minute workout, the effectiveness of which has been scientifically proven (Mattar et al., 2017)? Short yoga programs can also be easily done at home with instructions from the Internet. It is always important that the fun of the sport is not neglected. Only those who also enjoy the sports unit will successfully integrate it into everyday life in the long term.

After sport, rewards are of course allowed: a healthy, balanced breakfast after the early morning sport, a warm shower after the effort or a short meditation… Do something good for yourself and thus actively overcome depression. Long live sports!


(1) Choi, K. W., Chen, C. Y., Stein, M. B., Klimentidis, Y. C., Wang, M. J., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2019). Assessment of bidirectional relationships between physical activity and depression among adults: a 2-sample mendelian randomization study. JAMA psychiatry

(2) Lederman O., Ward PB., Firth J., Maloney C., Carney R., Vancampfort D., Stubbs B., Kalucy M. & Rosenbaum S.(2018) Accessed on: 27.02.2019

(3) Mattar, L., Farran, N., & Bakhour, D. (2017). Effect of 7-minute workout on weight and body composition. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 57(10), 1299-1304

(4) Müller T. (2013) Accessed on: 27.02.2019

(5) Nair, S., Sagar, M., Sollers III, J., Consedine, N. & Broadbent, E. (2015). Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses? A Randomized Trial. Health Psychology, 34, 632-641

(6) Wittchen, H. U., & Hoyer, J. (2006). Clinical psychology & psychotherapy (Vol. 1131). Heidelberg: Springer.

Categories: Depression Therapy

Verena Klein
Autor Verena Klein
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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