How to Get Motivated to Exercise When You’re Depressed?

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Let’s start by underlining that depression is a serious illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. The best way to help yourself is to talk to a therapist. Exercise is always recommended as a part of recovery but it feels impossible to start when you’re feeling down. We can’t tell you how to get motivated to exercise when you’re depressed but we can give you ideas about where to start.

These ideas work the best with the help you can get from a therapist. If you think you have some of the symptoms of depression listed below, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The usual symptoms of depression are:

  • Insomnia or increased need for sleep
  • Lack of appetite or an increased appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Low interest in activities that you used to find enjoyable
  • Restlessness or lack of energy
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Low self-esteem and poor self-image
  • Suicidal thoughts

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Start really small

The most important thing about exercising is starting. Make the start as easy as possible by committing to a single manageable goal. A little exercise is better than no exercise at all! If you can’t handle a full-blown workout, don’t force yourself. Set small goals that seem achievable to you. This can be running in the park for 10 minutes or doing 20 squats.

Set the bare minimum and when you do it, you’ll feel a lot better. You can always continue the workout after you’ve done your minimum for a day. Sometimes achieving small goals can push you to do even more.

Even if you start exercising regularly, continue with setting small goals. They get you through particularly bad days. This is the key to balancing gym and depression.


Taking a shower has a positive effect on your mind too. You feel relaxed and relieved. Make your after-workout showers luxurious and fun by playing some music, using fancy soaps, etc. Your workouts will get much easier when you have something to look forward to.

Morning showers are also important. They properly wake you up and allow you to start your day fresh. You should jump into the shower as soon as you wake up, especially if you don’t feel like it. Depression gets worse in the morning, so a cold shower can be a nice helpful release.


You won’t feel good before or during exercise but most likely you’ll feel better after you sweat a little. Remember this when you’re trying to encourage yourself to work out. A huge step forward is trying, so give yourself more credit. Have some compassion towards yourself. It’s okay if you can’t do certain exercises or you eat unhealthy now and then. Cut yourself some slack.

You can even write a letter when you feel good, so you can boost yourself when you’re down. If you want to know how to get motivated to work out when depressed, just read the letter! You’ll find all the reasons why you should do it which will instantly boost your motivation levels.

Try recreating positive thoughts, so you can shift focus from the negative. You might have low self-esteem but you can still find something good you can say about yourself. Tell this thing every day, even if sometimes you don’t mean it. The act of saying out loud positive things about yourself will boost your self-image. In time, you’ll start to believe those positive sentences and you’ll be motivated to work more on yourself too.

Remember to reward yourself for every good thing you do. You went for a quick walk, ran 5 laps around your building, did 20 push-ups? Good for you! You deserve praise and some self-love. These accomplishments should be celebrated accordingly. For example, give yourself more time to play games and don’t feel guilty about it. You deserved it.

Make a fitness plan

A lot of ideas on how to exercise when depressed revolve around making a fitness plan and sticking to it. Your body will eventually get on board with your exercise routine.  Having a fitness plan and completing it will give you a sense of control over your life. It’s crucial to complete the tasks you set for yourself, so forget about having a strict and hard schedule. As we already said, don’t pressure yourself to complete a huge program. Instead, start small and focus on light exercises that can make you feel good.

You need to create a fitness plan based on your usual days. If you’re a morning person, you can work out as soon as you wake up. However, if you’re not, don’t force yourself. You can magically transform yourself. The sentence like “I’m going to become a morning person and start working out before school” won’t help you at all. You need to be realistic, so if it suits your biorhythm, you should work out late at night.

Exercise in a comfortable environment

Every fitness coach recommends exercising in a place where you feel most comfortable. That can be a gym, a park, or your living room. If you feel overwhelmed with the idea of leaving the house, it’s completely okay to work out at home.

Some people find the outside very soothing as long as there are no people around. You can drift away from the main roads and go for a jog in the local forest. Music can also help you zone out. If you’re listening to music while jogging, be careful about the traffic though. Even if you’re far away from the city center, there are always some cars on the road.

Water can also have a relaxing effect on someone’s mind. Consider swimming or running near the river, lakes, etc. The surroundings have a lot of influence on the workouts. For the best results, you need to find a place that makes you feel better.

You need to be in a relaxed state of mind, so cut out everything that’s making you stressed out. Change the place you exercise, your clothes, etc. You can wear whatever you want, so don’t worry about having perfect gym clothes. If you’re at home, you can even exercise in your pajamas. As long as you start moving, everything is allowed.

Quick workouts

You might not know how to force yourself to exercise for two hours, but we’re sure you have enough strength to power through 10-minute workouts. There are lots of apps and videos that give you examples of quick workouts. Sometimes you don’t have to even leave your bedroom.

Having a 10-minute HIIT workout is better than forcing yourself to run on a treadmill for 40 minutes. Ten minutes pass very quickly, so this can be all the motivation you need. HIIT means high-intensity interval training and it consists of aerobic exercises. You’ll have your heartbeat up and get the blood pumping which is everything you actually need from a quality workout.

Group workouts

The benefits of working out in groups can be enough to encourage you to participate in these kinds of activities. Although it might seem intimidating, especially in your current state of mind, you should try it.  Worst-case scenario, you won’t enjoy it. However, there’s a high chance you’ll feel better when you exercise as a part of the group.

Sign up for a fun class like Zumba or Kickbox aerobic and get your heart rate pumping. Don’t worry about your performance, because you won’t be in the center of attention. Stand in the back and just absorb the group’s energy. You’ll surely catch a portion of their enthusiasm.

You can always ask some friends to join you, so you’ll be even more comfortable. They’ll provide companionship which is an excellent thing against isolation and loneliness. Having a strong support network is important to get through tough times. Reach out to your friends and family, even if you’ve neglected all social relationships. Families should exercise together and we’re sure they’ll understand and support you.

Signing up for classes or making plans to exercise with friends creates a commitment, so you’re more likely to follow through with it. When you give money for a gym membership, you don’t want to waste that. Similarly, if you promise a friend, you’ll be there, you don’t want to break the promise. That alone can be a motivation for some people to exercise. It doesn’t hurt that much to try, right?

Tips and tricks

  • Just get dressed. Put your workout clothes on without thinking. It’s more likely you won’t default to sitting on the couch after you’re all prepared for exercise. As we already mentioned, find clothes that make you feel comfortable and good. You can also choose some bright colors to lift the mood.
  • Variety is the key. Doing the same workout every time becomes boring and you’re more likely to give up because of it. Diversifying the workout sessions will make your fitness routine more fun, so you’re probably going to stick with it. Run one day, go cycling another, swim, lift weights, do yoga – try anything that sounds even slightly interesting.
  • Overall, the best way how to self-motivate when depressed is by surrounding yourself with motivation. Watch videos of motivational speakers, write inspiring quotes, etc. This can be very helpful because you’ll subconsciously absorb all this positivity.
  • Listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you work out. It can be distracting, so you don’t think about the pain of the exercises. Also, don’t finish the book (or a show). This way, you “have to” work out the next day to see how the story turned out.
  • Track your progress. Use apps to see how you’re improving over time. You can also make an exercise scrapbook. This is a fun DIY project that will keep you motivated. Use colorful highlighters to mark successful days and add a picture or two of your workout surroundings.
  • Pick a cause for exercise like Alzheimer’s research, diabetes research, etc. It can really motivate you to fight for something.

Frequently asked questions

How can I get myself motivated to exercise?

To summarize: write what you feel after a workout, remember inspirational quotes, prepare your workout clothes in advance, try various exercises, invite a few friends to fitness classes, and make a realistic fitness plan.

How to get yourself out of depression?

You can try to lift your mood by listening to upbeat music, exercising, cleaning the house, venting to friends, etc. However, to tackle issues like depression you might need more help. Seek help from a therapist, so he/she will give you more advice on how to overcome depression.

Why is it so hard to exercise?

People don’t like to work out because physical exercise pushes their limits. Especially the persons who have a sedentary lifestyle find it hard to start.

How does exercise affect your mental and emotional health?

Regular exercise can improve mood and mental health. It makes you feel more relaxed, less anxious, and depressed. Working out also boosts your self-esteem and improves self-image.

Is it better to work out in the morning or at night?

Honestly all that’s important is what suits you specifically. Working out before breakfast can help you burn fat more effectively. However, when you’re only starting to exercise you shouldn’t worry about this. The most important thing is to start and form a routine. Later, you can change it to be more efficient.


We’re sure you now have some idea how to get motivated to exercise when you’re depressed. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but at least you have a place to start. Try these tips even if you’re not sure they will work. You never know what can be your boost! After all, the most important thing is trying.

If you also need the motivation to study, we have an article about that topic too





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