It’s time to reframe the way people think about wellness. It’s limiting to think that exercise is just a way to lose weight or build muscle. In reality, exercise supports your brain health, hormonal function, and self-esteem. It also improves your mood, which is why it’s an important part of any self-care routine, whether you’re depressed or not.
In fact, studies shows that exercise effectively reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. Researchers don’t yet understand the antidepressant effects of exercise, and it’s tough to pin down specific answers because mood disorders as a whole have many different causes. Here’s what researchers do know: According to a 2018 review of over 33 randomized clinical trials, resistance training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults, regardless of how much weight they lifted or how much strength they gained.
That’s a big deal because the term “resistance training” is super broad — it can define workouts that use equipment like exercise machines, resistance bands, free weights, or even your own body weight. Based on the review, any workout that improves muscular strength and endurance can ease symptoms of depression. Those symptoms include anxiety, poor sleep, fatigue, and low self-esteem.
If pushups and planks aren’t your thing, that’s OK, too. A seminal study on aerobic exercise and depression found that moderate cardio — just 30 minutes, three days a week — worked as well as antidepressants in staving off symptoms, and was more effective than drugs at preventing relapses.
Here are a few prevailing theories to explain how working out helps your mental health:
It releases feel-good hormones: Exercise releases endorphins, hormones that improve your mood and contribute to a positive sense of well-being. Endorphins even help relieve pain, which often accompanies depression. 
It modulates important neurotransmitters: Depression diminishes the neurotransmitters associated with mood and stress response (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine). Exercise increases the availability of these essential neurotransmitters, which may restore healthy brain function and help you feel better.
It boosts your self-esteem: Depression contributes to negative thoughts and feelings of low self-worth. However, exercise has been shown to enhance self-efficacy — your belief in yourself and your abilities.
It’s relaxing: Raising your core body temperature through exercise may reduce muscular tension and make you feel relaxed, which alleviates symptoms of anxiety and stress.
These findings supports decades of other research that establish exercise as an effective treatment option for mood disorders. That’s great news for people who are seeking ways to boost their mood with or without prescription medication. Approximately 322 million people live with depression worldwide, but not everyone has easy access to a doctor. While exercise alone may not cure depression, it can help you feel better.
This is weight-bearing workout hits every major muscle group. You can do it with a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, or exercise machine.
Do 12 reps of each exercise with a rest in between. Repeat this circuit up to four times.