Depression & Anxiety

What is Depression?

Depression is a common, potentially debilitating condition. People with depression experience sadness, loss of interest or pleasure and feelings of guilt or low self-worth. Depression may also manifest as disturbances in sleep, concentration, appetite, or as persistent fatigue (1). More than 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression and the condition ranks as a leading cause of disability.

Why is physical activity or exercise important in the management of depression?

Regular physical activity or exercise may be as beneficial as medication or psychological therapies and offers a number of benefits including...

  • Lower risk of depression, now and in the future (2)
  • An effective strategy to manage weight gain, diabetes risk and cardiovascular disease risk associated with depression (3)
  • Effective in reducing symptoms of depression for people experiencing other mental disorders (4)

How does exercise help?

depression anxiety and exercise

What type of exercise might be beneficial for people with depression?

A recent systematic review (5) concluded that supervised aerobic exercise which is similar to that recommended for the general population is likely to be beneficial for people with depression. This is summarised below.

Frequency Intensity Time Type Supervision Setting
3 - 4 x per week Low - Moderate. Consumer preferred 30 - 40 minutes Any aerobic activity Appropriately qualified and trained personnel. Group or individual

Ideally, exercise participation should be ongoing; however, a minimum program length of 9 weeks is suggested.

For prevention, The Black Dog Institute challenges people to Exercise Your Mood and have found that just 60 minutes of exercise per week can prevent depression.

How do I commence an exercise program?

You can talk to your doctor about an exercise program that suits your personal preferences and circumstances. Ideally, you can book straight in with our Exercise Physiologist (EP) in Pascoe Vale. EP’s have specialised training in the design and delivery of exercise and lifestyle interventions for people with chronic and complex conditions including depression. Book online or call 9304 0500.


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1. WHO. (2014). Depression: definition Retrieved 7 May, 2014, from

2. Mammen, G., & Faulkner, G. (2013). Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression: A Systematic Review of Prospective Studies. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(5), 649-657

3. Berk, M., Sarris, J., Coulson, C. E., & Jacka, F. N. (2013). Lifestyle Management of Unipolar Depression. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 127(Suppl. 443), 38-54

4. Rosenbaum, S., Tiedemann, A., Sherrington, C., Curtis, J., & Ward, P. B. (2014). Physical Activity Interventions for People With Mental Illness: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, DOI: 10.4088/JCP.13r08765

5. Stanton, R., & Reaburn, P. (2013). Exercise and the Treatment of Depression: A review of the Exercise Program Variables. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(2), 117-182

A PridePlus Health Case Study on Depression and Anxiety


“I need to lose weight and get fit”

67-year-old female, anxiety, cardiac disease, pre-diabetes, obese, hiatus hernia, OA knees and cervical and lumbar spine, inactive for past 20 years


To manage well-being, to improve quality of life, to develop discipline and motivation to exercise sustainably and to reduce pain

Baseline Assessment

Reduced cardiovascular capacity, core strength, proximal leg strength

Waist and umbilicus girth > 100cm, mass>108kg

Heavy legs in bike test and low capacity

Unable to recruit core muscles and hip stabilisers in basic assessment, overactive lumbar muscles

Program and Team

EP services engaged once weekly to establish discipline

Team also includes GP, psychologist, cardiologist and physiotherapist.

A home exercise program prescribed

Focus on education, graded exercise, best practice postures and techniques.

Reassurance about keeping expectations moderate, being happy with slow and steady progress, being okay with occasional loss of motivation, low energy days.

Re-assessing volumes and training loads when not feeling well and using humour/empathy to improve rapport.


Many instances of stop-start exercise, commitment has been up and down, but there were good gains in cardio capacity and strength across different muscle groups.

Weight loss and girth loss achieved from time to time, mood stabilised.

Weight varies between 98 - 104 kg, waist and umbilicus girth 95 - 100cm.

Staying focused on goals and strategies to achieve goals important.

Support and guidance, empathy key


“You’ve taught me to understand what heart rate I need to train at and how to manage my own exercise routine”

Continues to exercise regularly with improved fitness and function. Is much more insightful into triggers of anxiety and understands the importance of exercise in managing his well - being


“Our emotional well being is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle” - EP Mike Fitzsimon

exercise physiologist in pascoe vale

Book an appointment with our PridePlus EPs.