Boost Your Mood: Workout Motivation Tips

How to Motivate Yourself to Workout When Depressed

Understanding Depression and Exercise

Depression can be a debilitating condition that saps your energy, motivation, and overall zest for life. Exercise, however, has been proven to help alleviate symptoms of depression by releasing endorphins, reducing stress, and improving mood. Understanding the link between depression and exercise can be the first step toward finding the motivation to get moving.

Set Small, Achievable Goals

When you’re feeling depressed, the idea of a full workout might seem overwhelming. Instead, start with small, manageable goals. Aim for just 5-10 minutes of physical activity. This could be a short walk, a few stretches, or some light yoga. Achieving these small goals can provide a sense of accomplishment and gradually build your confidence.

Create a Routine

Establishing a routine can provide structure and a sense of normalcy, which can be particularly beneficial when you’re dealing with depression. Try to schedule your workouts at the same time each day. This consistency can make exercise a regular part of your day and help you stick to it, even when motivation wanes.

Find an Exercise You Enjoy

Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or running miles. Finding an activity you enjoy can make a huge difference. Whether it’s dancing, swimming, biking, or hiking, choose something that feels more like fun than a chore. Enjoyable activities are more likely to become a regular habit.

Buddy Up

Working out with a friend or joining a group can provide much-needed social support and accountability. A workout buddy can encourage you on days when you don’t feel like exercising and make the activity more enjoyable. Group classes or community sports teams can also offer a sense of camaraderie and motivation.

Use Music and Podcasts

Listening to your favorite music or an engaging podcast can make workouts more enjoyable and distract you from negative thoughts. Create a playlist of upbeat songs or choose podcasts that interest you to keep you motivated and entertained during your exercise sessions.

Reward Yourself

Set up a reward system for reaching your exercise goals. This could be anything from treating yourself to a favorite snack, enjoying a relaxing bath, or taking some time for a hobby you love. Rewards can provide extra motivation and a positive association with exercise.

Track Your Progress

Keeping track of your workouts can help you see your progress and stay motivated. Use a journal, an app, or a fitness tracker to record your activities and achievements. Seeing your progress can provide a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to keep going.

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s important to practice self-compassion, especially when dealing with depression. Understand that there will be days when you might not feel like exercising, and that’s okay. Allow yourself to rest and recover without guilt. Acknowledge your efforts and celebrate even the small victories.

Professional Support

If you’re struggling to find motivation despite trying various strategies, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapists can provide personalized strategies and support tailored to your needs. Additionally, some fitness trainers specialize in working with individuals experiencing depression and can offer the right encouragement and guidance.

The Science Behind Exercise and Depression

Research shows that exercise can be as effective as medication for some people with depression. Physical activity increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. It also promotes the growth of new brain cells and connections, reduces inflammation, and helps regulate sleep patterns . All these factors contribute to improved mood and overall mental health.

Practical Tips for Getting Started

  1. Start Slow: Begin with gentle exercises like walking, stretching, or light yoga.
  2. Set a Schedule: Plan your workouts at a specific time each day to build a routine.
  3. Find Support: Exercise with friends or join a group to stay motivated.
  4. Mix It Up: Keep things interesting by trying different activities.
  5. Celebrate Successes: Reward yourself for reaching milestones.


Finding the motivation to exercise when you’re feeling depressed can be challenging, but it’s possible with the right strategies. Set small goals, create a routine, find enjoyable activities, and seek support from friends or professionals. Remember to be kind to yourself and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Exercise can play a crucial role in managing depression and improving your overall well-being.


  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). The exercise effect. Retrieved from Harvard Health
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic

These tips can help you find the motivation to exercise, even when depression makes it difficult. Remember, the key is to start small and build up gradually. With time, you’ll likely find that exercise becomes a valuable tool in managing your mental health.>