8 Workouts For Depression You Can Do At Home

No one likes being told working out will make you feel better, but… it does.

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A person with natural, curly hair kneels on a yoga mat during a stretch routine. Working out with de...

If you live with depression, you know that one of the most irritating — and frankly, offensive — things someone can say is "you'll feel better if you just work out." It's far from that simple, because being down isn't something you can just will yourself out of. But when you do want to work out and your mental health's getting in your way, having some at-home workouts for depression in your back pocket can make it easier to get started.

Yes, it's annoying when someone who doesn't have depression chirpily tells you what will help. But the science backs it up: According to a 2019 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, working out can help improve your mental health. The study acknowledged that it's often harder to start exercising when you're already in the midst of a tough emotional state, but it found that moving for even a half-hour a day could give you that mood boost you need.

"Since my mood worsens when I don't move, I prioritize some kind of movement every single day," says Glo yoga teacher Elena Brower. "The simple act of making even a short duration of effort helps me to feel productive in my work, healthy in my mind, and peaceful in my body."

Sometimes, you might just have to take a deep breath and dive in. "Don't think too much about waiting to feel better or to be in a better mood to start working out," says Jeff Paul, a senior area personal training manager at Blink Fitness. "Instead, think about how you'll feel better after you get a workout in." When your mind wants to go but your body doesn't want to cooperate, knowing these eight workouts for depression that you can do at home can make movement more accessible.


Move To Your Favorite Tunes

Not every dance workout has to be a high-intensity Zoom class. "One of the best ways to stay moving is to schedule myself 10 minutes of music with movement," Brower says. "It doesn't matter what kind of movement — even running in place on my yoga mat works — but I have to listen to music I love when I'm doing it. When I'm in the depths of sadness, which runs in my family and lives in my bones, this helps me tremendously to keep energy moving through my system."


Stretch It Out

"Sometimes when you're going through depression, even leaving the house may seem like something really difficult to do," Paul says. The good news is you don't even have to break a sweat to get some movement in. "Going through a simple at-home stretching routine will not only help you feel better physically, but you'll also feel better emotional that you were able to complete it," he says.

Figure out what feels manageable to you. Maybe it's some gentle stretching, or you just need to remind yourself to take a few long breaths in and out. "Choose a very short, low-intensity practice that doesn't contribute to feeling burdened or overwhelmed," says Glo yoga teacher Jason Crandell. "Resist the notion that it's an all-or-nothing dynamic in which you're either working out intensely or not at all."


Grab A Friend

Even if it's virtual, having a pal with you can help. "With a workout buddy, you can hold each other accountable, leave whatever is on your mind outside of the workout, and hopefully experience a few laughs while you train," says Courtney Olson, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with Blink Fitness. FaceTime your friend to do some breathing or kickboxing together, and feel free to make faces at each other to see who breaks into a giggle fit first.


Run (In Place)

Some sunlight might help you feel a little lighter, but you can still get a good jog in even if you can't quite get yourself out the front door. "Running in place is so silly, but I love it," Brower says. "Jumping in place with good alignment of knees and feet also works; plyometric exercise circulates lymph and energy through the body and really helps to change my state."


Get In Some Sun Salutations

Yoga isn't a cure-all, but it can serve as a restorative form of movement when you want to exercise but lack the desire or ability to jump into something high intensity.

"Just doing a few sun salutations can also be a great help to shift sticky moods quickly," Brower says. It'll take all of two minutes if you just want to do a couple of cycles of standing, folding, stretching, and standing again. Your body will get warm but probably not overly sweaty. You can go as slow as you need, or as energetic as you want.

"Simple, brief yoga practices that are designed for new students are a great starting place," Crandell tells Bustle. "Many people can be intimidated by what they perceive yoga to be — or who they perceive yoga is for. In reality, there are styles of yoga — especially those designed for new students — that are highly accessible and beneficial."


Stay Home (Even After The Pandemic)

"The upside of practicing at home is that it's private, and this can be reassuring for many," Crandell says. "This privacy can decrease the feeling of external pressures to perform or fit into a specific story of body-type narratives. It's possible that this will relieve the additional burden of fitting into an exercise culture that you may not resonate with."

Brower personally loves working out at home during the pandemic, because it comes with a huge side of self-love. "As long as I stick to my schedule, I find home workouts to be delicious," she says. "I jump right into a bath or shower and do all sorts of yummy self-care that I would've rushed through at the gym."


Go Online

Sometimes, the mental energy it takes to convince yourself to exercise is so draining that you can't spend any more thinking on the moves themselves. "Working out can be an added stress if you have to come up with the workout yourself," Olsen says. "Make it easier on yourself by looking up a workout video. There are tons of videos out there for free. Take advantage of them and try something new."


Get Outside

It might be super hard to get out the door when you're feeling especially down. But once you do, Olsen says, the rewards can make you feel a bit better. "Getting outside and taking in vitamin D is a great way to boost your mood while providing a mind-clearing experience," she says.

If you're like me and a solo walk without a destination gives you anxiety, Olsen recommends going on little errands. It doesn't have to be a formal workout for the movement to "count."

Studies referenced:

Choi, K. W., Zheutlin, A. B., Karlson, R. A., Wang, M. J., Dunn, E. C., Stein, M. B., … Smoller, J. W. (2019). Physical activity offsets genetic risk for incident depression assessed via electronic health records in a biobank cohort study. Depression and Anxiety. doi: 10.1002/da.22967


Elena Brower, yoga teacher, Glo

Jeff Paul, senior area personal training manager, Blink Fitness

Jason Crandell, yoga teacher, Glo

Courtney Olson, certified personal trainer and nutritionist, Blink Fitness

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