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Mental health

5 types of exercise proven to help with depression

Tons of research is being released looking at the benefits of physical activity and depression. A recent paper reviewing all of these studies concluded that physical activity has an important preventative role to play.

With depression expected to be the second-leading cause of global illness by 2030, and the leading cause in high-income countries like Canada, serious steps need to be taken to support mental well-being.

While physical activity is by no means a replacement for therapy and meds, it’s clear that it has a beneficial role to play.



One study looking at 1,904 middle-aged Australian women with depressive symptoms noted that higher levels of walking were linked to an increase in health-related quality of life. The women were asked to complete a health-related quality of life questionnaire (which looked at both physical and psychological factors) as well as a physical activity recall survey.

It was found that women who averaged 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week (which is consistent with Canada’s guidelines), felt more energized, less depressed, and more likely to want to socialize. And this is just one study. There are many other similar papers out there which support the benefits of walking, particularly when it’s done regularly.

What’s great about this activity is that anyone can do it, regardless of fitness ability, and you can do it almost anywhere. We’re all for it.

For more on walking, please visit: #19 – Walking on ParticipACTION’s 150 Play List.


Running, and other high-intensity or aerobic activities, are probably the most heavily researched exercises when it comes to preventing or reducing depression. Running instantly gets some endorphins and dopamine (neurotransmitters – code for: important brain chemicals responsible for mood) moving throughout the body. Ever heard of a runner’s high?

A recent study looked at the impact of combining meditation and running to help treat depression among adult men and women in the US. Twenty-two participants were asked to first meditate for 20 minutes (entry-level meditation that focuses on sitting quietly and focusing on breathing), followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation (focusing on each step they took), and finally, 30 minutes of running on a treadmill at a moderate speed.

Participants repeated this process twice a week for eight weeks. Not only did this combo reduce their depression (up to 40%!), but it also helped limit dwelling on unhappy thoughts and unpleasant memories from the past (known as rumination).

Time to lace up those sneakers and let the feel-good hormones flow!

For more on running, please visit: #80 – Running on ParticipACTION’s 150 Play List.


Stretch, focus, and breathe! Research continues to boast the benefits of yoga in not only improving physical health, but mental health as well.

Published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a small study examined the impact of yoga on helping people ease depression. Thirty adults (18-64 years) who suffered from depression were divided into two groups: half took a 90-minute Iyengar yoga class (which focuses on posture, strong alignment, and deep breathing) three times a week and did four 30-minute sessions at home, and the other half took two group classes and did three at-home sessions per week. After just three months, all participants, regardless of group assignment, saw a notable decrease in their depression symptoms by at least 50%!

While the more yoga you do appears to yield better results, doing yoga at least twice a week seems to provide some pretty amazing health benefits. Time to get your yoga on!

For more on yoga, please visit: #27 – Yoga on ParticipACTION’s 150 Playlist.


A 2014 paper in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine reviewed 42 papers which examined the effects of Tai Chi on psychological well-being. While additional high-quality work is still needed to identify how and why this particular activity is beneficial (as well as its efficacy), the findings of this paper support Tai Chi as a useful tool in positively impacting depression, anxiety, and overall psychological well-being.

Tai Chi is all about slow and controlled movements, which is particularly great for older adults or individuals with arthritis or balance concerns. Why not try Tai Chi to help lift your mood and welcome more positive energy into your life?

For more on Tai Chi, please visit: #108 – Tai Chi on ParticipACTION’s 150 Play List.


A 2010 review paper extensively reviewed 18 published articles on weight-lifting and depression. While some of the results were mixed, it was concluded in many of the studies that weight-lifting, or resistance training, plays a significant role in decreasing depressive symptoms, particularly in adults.

Weight-lifting is definitely a great way to blow off some steam, boost those endorphins, and get stronger all at the same time. BOOM!

For more on weight lifting, please visit: #45 – Weight Lifting on ParticipACTION’s 150 Play List.

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