Exercise can change the brain’s chemistry for the better.

According to Depression NZ, one in every five Kiwis are affected by depression. This startling statistic reveals the reality that you or someone you know will experience the black dog at some point. But did you know  that regular exercise can change the brain’s chemistry for the better? That you can improve the way you feel just by going for a walk everyday?

A recent study of more than 40,000 Norwegians concluded that people who exercise regularly at any  intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression. This exciting new research also found that 16 weeks of regular exercise is equally effective as antidepressant medication when it comes to treating mild to moderate depression.

Feeling tired and less motivated are two very common symptoms of depression, and exercise is often the last thing you may feel like doing. But once you put one foot in front of the other and get going, you’ll start to feel your mood change instantaneously.

Personal trainer and fitness guru Michelle Bridges lives and breathes exercise and has no doubts to how it can impact our mental and emotional wellbeing. “You don’t have to be wound up like a spring coil to do a training session,” she says.

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“You have to accept that you can just go for a walk today or do a yoga session.  That’s still going to elevate your mood, make you feel like you’re still sitting in the driver’s seat, you’re in charge but also being kind to yourself.”

Exercise helps boost serotonin, a chemical in the body that plays a key role in regulating mood, sleep, libido and appetite. It can also increase your levels of endorphins, which have natural mood-lifting effects. Exercise can also provide a great distraction from worrying and give you an increased sense of control.

Health Coach Scott Gooding’s tip is to move your body every day.  “People get stuck thinking they have to go to the gym or a class for an hour.  There’s no need.  I know and there’s lots of research out there to suggest that moving your body for 5, 10 or 20 minutes… whatever time you have, can elevate your mood.”

We know that staying active is so good for you physiologically and we’re constantly learning the benefits it has on our mental health.

Dr Sam Harvey from The Black Dog Institute says that the benefits of exercise kick in a very low level of intensity. “Even if you can go from doing nothing to an hour per week.  That will make a big difference in your risk of developing depression.”


– On most, preferably all days of the week, do a minimum 30 minutes exercise.
– Exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time – the 30 minute total does not need to be continuous.
– Ask a family member or friend to be your exercise partner to help keep you motivated.
– Be active in as many ways as possible each day: use the stairs, or get off the train one station early, park further away from the shops.
– A little activity is better than none at all and more is better than a little.  If you feel daunted, start small and find something you feel good about doing.

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