How has low mood affected your physical
activity levels, and your ability to do the
things you really enjoyed? Have you found
that over time you have become more
and more tired, the fatigue making it seem
impossible to will yourself to be any more
active than you are?
Maybe your medication has made
you put on weight, making you feel selfconscious about exercising. The thought
of having to socialise or visit new and
public places to exercise may make you
anxious, agitated and unable to control the
environment. Or maybe you are simply just
not interested in being more active.
These are all normal and real concerns,
even barriers to being more active when
suffering from low mood. Becoming more
active – from whatever baseline – is the
most important treatment for persistent
fatigue as it helps with body conditioning
and boosts energy levels. It can be a way
to take back control of your body. Being
active is an important adjunct to managing
low mood. Activity won’t cure you but it will
help with recovery. Being active can be as
important as taking medication in cases of
mild to moderate low mood.
The benefits you will feel from being more active are:
1. Improved sleep: Poor sleep patterns are a vicious cycle, leading to fatigue and
decreased energy levels and less motivation resulting in less activity. This leads to
social isolation and poor daily routine, which all feeds back into poor sleep. Being
more physically active helps you become more sociable, gives you better energy
levels, less fatigue and better motivation, all of which lead to a better daily routine and
2. Improved self-confidence: Improvement may be a result of the combination of
improved sleep, healthy weight maintenance and controlled appetite. Physical activity
helps you feel better about your body and your physical capabilities which all lead to
an improved sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
3. Improved mood: The antidepressant effects of exercise have been well-studied and
show significant improvements in mild and also more severe states of low mood.
Mood may be improved by activity because of the release of endorphins, happy
hormones, but also through increased motivation and socialising, as well as decreased
anxiety – essentially improving your quality of life.
4. Reduced social isolation: Getting out and about to be physically active will help
you feel less socially isolated. Even just a nod and a smile can make us feel better in
5. Less tiredness and improved energy levels: The more you do, the more energy
you will have and the less tired you will be. This may sound crazy when the thought
of doing any activity makes you exhausted and, yes, the first week or so may be a
little challenging, but as your body adapts and more endorphins are released (such as
serotonin a happy, feel-good hormone), you will start to feel the change.
6. Reduced stress levels: Exercise can improve physiological stress responses and
reduce the levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, can hurt you
more than it helps. Over time, high levels may cause weight gain and high blood
pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels and even
contribute to diabetes. Even a single exercise session can improve mood, reduce
stress and improve energy levels.
7. Improved motivation: Being able to regain some control of your life, by following
an exercise plan, will improve your motivation which in turn will help motivate you to
make other changes in your life, such as to eat more healthily.
8. Moderated appetite: Low mood can cause increased or decreased appetite. Exercise
can help regulate and ‘normalise’ hormones that may be affecting your appetite
and weight gain or loss. Being more active burns more calories and can contribute
to weight loss, which in turn may aid your sense of self-worth, giving you confidence
to do more. We are not promoting excessive weight loss, but rather advocating the
benefits of being active, having a healthy, balanced diet and respect for your body
and reaping the rewards of taking control of your condition. It will also help you
reduce your risk of suffering from other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and
9. Improved cognition: Being physically inactive can lead to poor sleep and poor
concentration, increased agitation and frustration as well as feelings of selfworthlessness. All of this can affect your ability to work, study, contribute at home or
in your community. A sedentary lifestyle promotes cognitive decline and early onset
dementia. Improvements in cognitive function and memory have been shown with
increased levels of physical activity.
10. Reduced need for medication in low mood.