Mood Moves

Exercise eases depression and enhances serenity and self-esteem

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 21 million American adults have some type of mood disorder, which includes major depression, chronic, mild depression and bipolar disorder.

Although medical care is essential for immediate and long-range well-being (these are disorders that are caused by altered body chemistry that needs to be addressed), exercise is often helpful to many people who suffer from depression. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly recover from depression faster, have less stress and have fewer physical and mental-health problems.

Getting this going should not be a chore—if all you can do is 10 minutes a day—it is better than nothing. As you grow more comfortable with exercising, try new activities such as yoga, which has been shown to improve mood. That may be due to increases in brain oxygenation, suggests neuroscientist Brian Christi, Ph.D., from the University of British Columbia.

Consult your physician before starting an exercise program. And never stop any antidepressant medication without medical guidance.

Downward-Facing Dog

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders, fingers spread out on the floor.
  2. Turn your toes under, exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Straighten your knees without locking them. Keep your heels slightly off the floor.
  3. Lift your pelvis up toward the ceiling, press your hands toward the floor, and feel the stretch through the shoulders.
  4. Keep your head between the upper arms without letting it hang. Straighten your knees as far as you can and gently stretch your heels to the floor. Hold for between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.

Child’s Pose

  1. When you are done with the downward-facing dog, bend your knees to the floor. Your knees should be about as wide apart as your shoulders.
  2. Exhale as you lower your torso between and onto your thighs. Touch your big toes together. Your forehead rests on the floor. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up. Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes.
  3. Repeat the two-pose sequence as many times as you wish.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014