how to motivate yourself to workout when depressed

How to Motivate Yourself to Workout When Depressed – 7 Powerful Ways

We are all aware of the advantages regular exercise has for both our physical and mental health. Finding the motivation to exercise can be very difficult when depression sets in, though. In this article, we’ll look at some psychological aspects that can keep you motivated to get out even if you’re depressed. We’ll look at methods to assist you get over your mental barriers and adopt a better way of living.


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Regular exercise is vital for physical and mental well-being, yet depression can hinder motivation. This article delves into 7 strategies for motivating exercise during depression, starting with setting achievable goals that build confidence and provide a clear path forward. Establishing a supportive routine offers stability amidst emotional turmoil, while accountability partners inject motivation. Psychological barriers like low energy and negative self-talk can be addressed with compassionate, gradual approaches. Mindfulness enhances the exercise experience, emphasizing enjoyment over performance. Seeking professional help through therapy or consulting fitness trainers who specialize in depression management can provide personalized guidance. Research supports exercise as an effective depression treatment.

Top Questions

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Yes, depression often saps energy, making exercise feel daunting. Motivation can wane, creating a challenge to initiate physical activity.
Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or yoga can be gentle on both the body and mind, promoting relaxation and boosting mood.
Avoid forcing; instead, start with a small, manageable goal. Gradually increase activity as energy and motivation improve. Positive reinforcement and finding a routine can help maintain consistency.

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout When Depressed

1. Set Small, Achievable Goals

Set Small, Achievable Goals

Breaking down your fitness aspirations into smaller, attainable milestones is a powerful technique. When faced with depression, these manageable goals create a sense of accomplishment that bolsters your self-assurance and drive. Whether it’s walking for 30 minutes or completing a specific number of reps, each success becomes a stepping stone toward your larger fitness journey.

2. Create a Supportive Routine

Create a Supportive Routine

In the throes of depression, maintaining a consistent workout at least 3 times a week can be transformative. By establishing a structured schedule, you provide yourself with a dependable anchor amidst the unpredictability of mental health challenges. This routine can act as a source of stability, offering you a sense of purpose and accomplishment that counteracts the turmoil within.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

Find an Accountability Partner

Enlisting a workout buddy, whether a close friend or family member, can be a game-changer when motivation is scarce. Their presence not only adds an enjoyable social dimension to your exercise but also injects a dose of responsibility. When you promise someone, you are more likely to stick to your workouts and keep a good record. Sharing the journey with someone else can make the process more enjoyable and the progress more tangible.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Practice Mindfulness

Integrate mindfulness techniques into your workout routine. By being present in the moment, focus on how your body feels during exercise, enhancing the positive impact of movement on your mental state.

5. Focus on Enjoyment Rather than Performance

Focus on Enjoyment Rather than Performance

Change your approach to exercise. Instead of fixating on achieving certain fitness goals, embrace the pleasure of moving. Let the joy of the activity become the driving force, reducing pressure and enhancing motivation.

6. Therapy and Counseling

Therapy and Counseling

Engaging with therapists provides a rich toolbox to combat depression and nurture motivation. Through cognitive-behavioral techniques, detrimental thought patterns can evolve into positive ones, nurturing emotional strength. Therapists offer tailored strategies that empower individuals to reframe challenges, develop coping skills, and rebuild self-esteem. This process equips them to navigate depression’s complexities while fostering long-term well-being.

7. Consult a Fitness Trainer

Consult a Fitness Trainer

The guidance of a fitness trainer who specializes in aiding individuals wrestling with depression is a game-changer. These trainers offer a customized approach that factors in your unique needs, physical capabilities, and mental state. They serve as pillars of support, not only designing effective workout routines but also serving as sources of encouragement during tough moments. Their expertise amplifies the potential for positive outcomes, steering you towards a happier, healthier existence.

The Psychological Barriers to Working Out During Depression

The Psychological Barriers to Working Out During Depression

Lack of Energy and Motivation

It can be tremendously difficult to have depression since it saps your energy and makes you feel drained. It may seem impossible to even consider exercising, as though it would be tiring to think about it.

Physical activity might be significantly hampered by this lack of drive and energy. It’s critical to adopt a patient and steady strategy to get through this obstacle. Start with small, manageable steps that feel achievable, and gradually build up your activity level as your energy improves. Setting realistic goals can help you push through the fatigue and find a sense of accomplishment.

Negative Self-Talk

Depression often gives rise to a constant stream of negative self-talk, where you find yourself trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism. This internal dialogue can be especially pronounced when it comes to exercise. You may convince yourself that you’re not capable of working out or that any effort you put in won’t make a difference. This self-sabotage can be a major roadblock to getting started.

It’s critical to resist these unfavorable ideas and swap them out for rational and sympathetic ones. Recognize that every step, no matter how small, contributes to your well-being, and celebrate your progress along the way.


A study published in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology” in 2022 found that exercise can be an effective way to improve symptoms of depression. The study participants who exercised regularly reported feeling less depressed and anxious, and they also had better sleep quality and more energy.

Another study, published in the journal “Depression and Anxiety” in 2021, found that exercise can be as effective as medication for treating depression. The study participants who exercised regularly showed significant improvements in their depression symptoms, even those who had not responded well to medication.


Overcoming the mental barriers to working out during depression requires a combination of understanding, self-compassion, and strategic planning. By acknowledging the challenges and adopting a holistic approach, you can gradually build the motivation to integrate exercise into your routine and experience the positive impact it can have on your mental health.

People also ask

How do I mentally motivate myself to workout?

Break tasks into small steps, set achievable goals, and remind yourself of the positive effects of exercise on mood. Focus on the process and find enjoyment in movement.

Is the gym the best cure for depression?

While going to the gym can be helpful, there is no one size fits all approach. Exercise, especially gym sessions, can help with depression management, but it’s frequently a component of a comprehensive strategy that may also involve therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications.

How do I overcome gym anxiety?

Start by familiarizing yourself with the gym, perhaps during off-peak hours. Set realistic expectations, focus on your goals, and remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere. Consider enlisting a friend or working with a trainer for added support.

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