How I'm fighting depression with exercise
Nancy Klinger works out with her fellow Tri Challenge participants in Atlanta.
April 20th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

How I'm fighting depression with exercise

Nancy Klinger is one of seven CNN viewers participating in the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Klinger applied to the Challenge after experiencing various personal setbacks, including a separation from her husband of 26 years.

Depression is a challenging, albeit important, discussion. It is even difficult to write about.

I am one of many who occasionally suffer from depression. It is usually just a minor case of the blues, but on occasion it turns into all out sadness - so much so you ache.

You purposely stay away from things that make you happy, you don’t like yourself, and you cry a lot (when you’re alone). You hate yourself for feeling badly while really being so incredibly fortunate.

My guess is that this fact would be a shock to the great majority of people who know me or work with me because I hide it so well. On the outside, I am always thought of as the happy one, the positive one, the person who is always smiling. If I were in a beauty pageant I would be in the running for Miss Congeniality!

On the inside, my life is filled with pain and emotions that are either incredibly high or incredibly low. It’s exhausting.

Last year when my husband and I separated, my world seemed to spiral downward; the sadness seemed to be overtaking me. There were no more ups, only downs. Time spent with a therapist did some good, but when the recommendation was made that I consider a low dose of an antidepressant, I needed to decline.

I am as stubborn as they come and felt that I needed to work through this on my own.

Fast forward to the CNN FitNation Triathlon Lucky Seven. In 150 days from today I will be participating in the Nautica Triathlon in Malibu with six incredible teammates. Being selected to participate was indeed a blessing. From the start, I began exercising on a regular basis and slowly, but surely, my mood started improving.

With great help and support from a wonderful trainer, I get assigned a schedule for each day through a website called TrainingPeaks.

I started setting goals for myself, something that I have always shied away from, probably for fear of not achieving them. I started sharing my goals with others to hold myself more accountable. I started feeling better about myself, about life. My Fit Nation teammates slowly became my soul mates.

Other positive things started to happen. To get everything done that needs to get done each day, I started to compartmentalize parts of my life. My week is scheduled to make sure that I can get all my training done without negatively impacting the other important aspects of my life.

I leave the house early one to two days a week for a morning swim workout. I run at work some days during lunch. I set aside time to read two nights a week. Long bike rides are done on weekends. Cleaning the house and outdoor chores are now done on set days, rather than me freaking out about it on a regular basis.

I know that may sound funny but a lot of people probably know what I mean. Sundays are now my “no shower” days, and I try my best to leave my car in the garage. Time is set aside for volunteer activities. My life now seems to have a good and healthy rhythm; I am calmer and more relaxed.

The exercise feels more like habit - a good habit.

Over the past several months, I have recognized and acknowledged many things about myself and my life. I am starting to realize that it is okay to be happy and it is great to have goals.

The finish line of the triathlon, for me, will be the starting line for the next part of life’s journey, and I am looking forward to it!

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Shanno

    Congrats and best wishes with the race! I too have fought life long depression with mainly exercise. For me the combination of loud music, getting together with friends and feeling strong is better than any pill. When I tell people I know with depression that they should start walking and then running – they look at me like I am nuts. But it really does work.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      Loud music, getting together with friends and feeling strong...you must do Zumba!

      April 20, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • Spot on

      Exercise has been my therapy for almost 40 years. I guess you could say that I learned to "self-medicate" with exercise at an early age because as far back as I can remember (mid-grade school) I've battled depression. Of course, I didn't know what it was at the time. I just knew I was unhappy, extremely withdrawn and much less energetic than my friends and peers. In my teens and early 20's most of my friends would snicker when I told them I "had" to work out. Now that I'm in my 50's and in better shape than all of them, they finally get it. More energy, more positive outlook, more mobility, less struggle with weight gain, fewer medical problems, the benefits are numerous. However, the biggest benefits to me, in my opinion is much milder depression than when I take time off from exercising. Yes I've been in therapy for a number of years and on an anti-depressant, but consistent, moderate to intense exercise have given me the best benefit of the three.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • Belinda

      I get the same reaction, Shanno. It's hard to get the energy to go out and exercise when depressed, but once you get going, the relief can be monumental- I know from experience. In fact, once I discovered this and began cycling on a regular basis, I found zero need to have a car! I'd ride the 20 mile round trip commute in every kind of weather imaginable, and when I had an appointment to go to 80 miles away... I rode my bicycle to it! Even my grocery shopping... I have a backpack that can expand, and I once fit all the requirements for a turkey dinner for 6 in it... including the 18 lbs turkey!! Driving to work never woke me up, never had me arriving at work in a great mood. It also didn't give me a way to vent frustrations if the kids at the school I work at gave me a hard time. On the bicycle, however, by the time I'd reach home, all angst would be gone! ONce I was in shape, my bicycle commute only took, on average, 5 minutes longer than by car, and if there were an accident on the route I usually drove my car to, cycling in was far faster!

      April 22, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Martha

      I agree with you. Exercising helps with stress also.

      April 22, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
    • lourdesbfernandez

      It's easy when your depression is not severe. Otherwise, the depression paralyzes you. Depression is a chemical, biological problem and telling people to just rely on exercise, music or friends. It's not that easy and it may worsen depression.

      April 23, 2012 at 02:41 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      i have fighting depression for some time, hard cardio workouts help me a lot]

      April 23, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
  2. Mike Bloom, Ph.D.

    "Depression after loss of marriage." Before feelings were medicalized this would be call grief. Google "The Brave New World of Antidepressants: No Need to Grieve" by Michael Bloom.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick

      Nice self promotion.

      With all due respect Mr Bloom before PTSD was medicalized soldiers returning from war would be considered "crazy".

      April 20, 2012 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • SD

      Unbelievable. A DOCTOR who believes that clinical depression is the emotion of "grief"? REALLY?! In 2012 it still has to be explained to people that these are not normal up-and-down emotions. Pathetic. Does a person suffering physical pain from surgery have to explain what they're going through in order to get some compassion? No– it's understood that even though OTHERS may not feel what they feel, they are still willing to empathize. Not so with true depression. I am so tired of the ignorance out there. How about accept the fact that this is something YOU have not experienced (and LUCKY FOR YOU, believe me!), but others do, and that you can never understand how devastating it is. Count your blessings, "Dr." Bloom. And maybe get yourself an education in psychiatry and compassion.

      April 20, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • Cara Pinto

      Dr. Bloom should probably be required to "walk a mile" or live the hellish existence of clinical depression for even just one week, before he makes such inane and frivolous comments.

      April 20, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
    • aspblom

      Many, many studies at major medical centers have demonstrated clearly that vigorous cardio 30-40 minutes daily, 6x wk, works as well as any drug regimen at ending major depression. That has been such good news. No negative side effects. No withdrawal. Free. Increased sense of empowerment.

      April 20, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      Does anyone realize how hard it is just to get out of bed each day, let alone make a plan that includes vigorous exercise? This writer just doesn't have a clue, although I give her credit for trying.

      I'm just grateful that I CAN get out of bed, and go to my job. I've given up on all the therapy and medications; they didn't work for me, and I'm sick of trying those remedies. They don't work for me. I've done all the self-improvement I am capable of, I've prayed, I've taken the meds, I've spent lots of money on therapy.

      Now I am just content to wake up each morning, get out of bed, go to work, and come home. I'd like more than that, but evidently I'm not capable of it.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:21 | Report abuse |
    • RLGESQ1

      Your paper is a worthwhile read. Your fundamental point that pharmaceuticals may deprive a person of beneficial pain and thereby dissuade from taking appropriate remedial action i(no pain, no gain) is valuable. Reading your paper before asking for and getting anti-depressants would benefit doctors and patients. Thank you.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • oy

      I don't know why everyone is jumping on this guy. Yes, he is self promoting, which isn't cool, but why is it so difficult to imagine that the LOSS of a loved one (through divorce) could lead to "grief"? I say this as someone who has had major depression since I was a child...and I do believe the onset was due to a LOSS. My childhood friend died in 5th grade and we were never given any sort of consoling. Grieving is a downward spiral into depression if not treated properly.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • oy

      Cara...how do you know this "Dr" hasn't lived through depression? People deal with it differently. You don't know him, so you have no idea of his history.

      And as far as it being hard to get out of bed...but you have to do it. Trust me, I know that feeling, and you have to just work through it! Don't make yourself powerless in the face of depression! Don't allow it to rule your life and don't define yourself by this feeling! That will only cause you to spiral down more. I don't believe the author is being heartless or doesn't understand what it's like to have that feeling...she's just saying what worked for her. Structuring her life in such a way that she can't procrastinate or allow those feelings to overtake her. She knows the exercising is beneficial for mood disorders so she just DOES it...and you can, too.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • The_Mick

      There is a difference between depression and grief. When I and others have lost close loved ones, there's a sadness that affects your life but does not make you assume you'll live a life of constant sorrow. Depression assumes you're future is one of constant sorrow.

      April 21, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • Belinda

      Flagged with "report abuse" button. I'm pretty sure self promotion such as this is against CNN guidelines, especially since, in one sense, this guy is trying to profit from it. Unbelievable.

      April 22, 2012 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • Mike Bloom, Ph.D.

      The article is free.I profit in no way. I just think the ideas are important and that is why I am sharing them. It is just too long to get the ideas across in the reply section.

      April 22, 2012 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
    • lourdesbfernandez

      There is a difference between grief and depression. Simple grief can turn into severe depression. I know because it happened to me. This is not a simple illness and should not be trivialized.

      April 23, 2012 at 02:43 | Report abuse |
  3. GaPeach

    I'm too depressed to start exercising!!

    April 20, 2012 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      Please at least try. Start with a walk outdoors.

      April 20, 2012 at 17:31 | Report abuse |
    • MChicago

      GaPeach, You owe it to yourself. Walk for 10 minutes. Next time 15. You'll feel the difference. Please try. It has worked for me and it WILL work for you! Be kind to yourself, God loves you!

      April 20, 2012 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
    • me

      It will make you feel less depressed. Just do it.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
    • Sonya

      I remember when I couldn't even walk up the stairs to get to my room, Id cry and then fall asleep there in the middle of the staircase. 10-15 minutes can feel overwhelming! but just like my stairs, I had to eventually push myself, one step at a time. Whenever you're ready. =)

      April 21, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
    • lourdesbfernandez

      I know how you feel. I feel paralyzed by depression. Eating? Bathing? Working? Responsibilities? Nah. I just can't get myself up and doing it. And I am sinking further into it. See a psychiatrist. When I get insurance again, I plan on doing the same thing. Exercise?! How? When bathing seems like running a marathon!

      April 23, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse |
  4. ksmahoney

    I'm so glad this idea is getting more attention. There are multiple research studies that demonstrate exercise is as effective as anti-depressants in treating mild to moderate depression.

    April 20, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. David

    Good for you Nancy. And a great message to share. Been down that road myself and know the benefits of exercise make a real difference. Start slow and let your strength, stamina and confidence grow. World doesn't change, but how you see it (and yourself) does!

    April 20, 2012 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jenny

    Thank you so much for writing this. I too deal with depression and anxiety, and exercise really helps mitigate the awful effects. Best wishes for your race and thank you for being brave enough to come forward and discuss your struggles.

    April 20, 2012 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. KSObserver

    Exercise has been my main defense against depression for 35 years. I admire Ms. Klinger's strength and determination to "work through this on my own" without medication. My own decision to decline medication twenty years during a period of major depression nearly cost me my life following a near-fatal suicide attempt. Subsequently, medication saved my life. Living with depression requires a whole range of tools, including exercise, social support, coping skills, and yes, sometimes medication.

    April 20, 2012 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you for mentioning that all the tools can be important, and all should be considered and available.

      April 20, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
  8. Melissa

    Good for you for turning down the pills and getting involved with exercise. Far too many times people take the easy way out and choose the pill. But pills never do anything the cure the problem, they only mask it. This society is becoming far too dependent on pills. Exercise and good nutrition goes a long way to help with any stress issues we have. Diabetes is another good example. Those that choose to exercise and really watch their diets are less and less reliant on pills and may eventually even be off pills all together. Congrats to you and good luck with the triatholon!

    April 20, 2012 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Simone

      I don't think pills are the "easy way out." I can personally say that depression is so difficult to combat. And, when I did decide to take medication, it didn't feel like the "easy way out." For me, it was another way that I was failing at life. But after I was able to work through my issues, with medication, I learned how to work through them without. Nothing related to depression is easy, I promise you.

      April 20, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
    • Tim K.

      Please don't ever suggest that no people need depression medications. Too many lives are needlessly lost due to serious cases of depression that can be medically treated if the social stigma of taking the pills would go away. Thank whoever you pray to that YOU don't need depression medication, and I hope that no one close to you dies as a result of your 'advice'. Depression medication for some people is much like insulin to a diabetic. Try and save a life – recommend a knowledgeable depression doctor, don't portray one. Thanks for reading.

      April 20, 2012 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • SD

      Thank you, Tim K. Well said. Too bad it needs to be said over and over because some people don't "get it". And others die.

      April 20, 2012 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • Problem

      How many people have suffered and died because of "natural" medicine. These things have a place in our lives but they are often inadequate to overcome challenges that traditional medicine is equipped to deal with. I've had several friends and neighbors who have died because they didn't want to receive regular medical treatments or take medicine. Sure, there's no guarantee they would have lived, but professionals believe most of them would have had they given medicine a chance earlier or at all.

      April 20, 2012 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Melissa, speak for yourself and no one else. You have no idea how medication can help certain individuals - they saved my life. I have tried diet and exercise only in lieu of medication - I am an avid cyclist - and for me, it just wasn't enough. Depression runs in my family and suicides have happened. How dare you decide what is right for others and look down on people whose treatment plan includes medications.

      April 20, 2012 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Pills are the easy way out? I take it you have never been on medication for major depression. Often times the anti-depressants only give you the ability to start doing the *rest* of the work you have to do. They aren't a cure – they're a start.

      April 20, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      What a breathtakingly ignorant statement. Antidepressants saved my life. How dare you dismiss any clinical depression treatment as "taking the easy way out?" Before I found the correct medication, I couldn't function well enough to consider exercise – I could barely go to work and get out of bed when I wasn't at work. NOW I can exercise, eat well and feel well and it all works together in keeping me healthy. When you are clinically depressed, you don't CARE about anything and don't CARE if you live or not. Depressed people need to find the treatments that work for THEM. That may or may not include medication and I don't think anyone should basically insult people for using medications if appropriate.

      April 21, 2012 at 08:35 | Report abuse |
    • lourdesbfernandez

      Melissa, you need to educate yourself on depression and medication. It is NOT the easy way out and it doesn't mask the illness. Would you tell a diabetic to not take insulin? There is a great deal of information out there about depression, please read it.

      April 23, 2012 at 02:48 | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    After losing my brother to a devastating cancer, I became very depressed. I couldn't sleep and felt anxious all the time. After months of grief, a counselor recommended that I start a serious exercise routine. She said the in a months time (the same amount of time it takes for an anti-depressant to start working) an exercise routine would naturally change my brain chemistry to fight depression. I started walking 3 miles a day, no matter how sad or tired I feel, and can definitely feel my mood improving. Getting some sunshine and fresh air also helps.

    April 20, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joyce

      Glad that exercise worked for you. But yours was a situational depression, not a physiological one. It's not the same, and while exercise is excellent for some people, it is way too difficult for people who can't even get out of bed, take a shower, and get on with a day that is bland and unrewarding.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
  10. Scott

    Will the stigma about depression ever end. It is a disease for many and sometime unfortunately a pill is a big part of the answer. For someone who was stress free for the last year and had no unresolved issues I couldn't shake depression. I excercised everyday, ate well, prayed and received every possible medical test with no answer for my mental and physical symptoms. I even tried natural options for many months with mixed results. Finally as a last resort I tried Lexapro and after a month I feel again like my old self. I really don't want to put a plug in for the big pharmacy but the truth is the truth at least in my case.

    April 20, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Fiona

    It's wonderful that this woman turned her life around, but I suspect she never suffered from a true clinical depression...just based on her description. I mean the kind of depression that has you sleeping all day, reluctant to leae the house, withdrawing from society, even contemplating suicide. I have battled depression my whole life. I have exercised myself out of the depths many times, just out of instinct. Back in the 1970's and 80s there were no drug therapies for depression, and very little recognition or understanding of the condition. I swam, did weights, biked, and walked miles. For about six years in the 1990's I walked three miles every day in all weather (dogs will do that to you). It kept me alive. These days I do my best to move as much as possible, but my body is showing wear and tear. It hurts most of the time. Yoga has helped.

    One good decision Klinger made was to refuse drugs. I have tried many of them off-label, for chronic migraine, and have found the side effects unacceptable and not worth it, for any benefit they might offer.

    It's interesting to me that Klinger benefitted from scheduling herself and making commitments to "show up" for various things (other than her job). It is very easy for the melancholic to feel overwhelmed, and that feeling easily feeds despair. I go through that myself.

    April 20, 2012 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rita

    I got postpartum depression twice. The solution for me was to exercise and that way I avoided medication. Every time I feel down for no apparent reason, I know there is one: I have neglected working out.

    April 20, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. phaseolus

    I've battled depression for 40 years and have found that a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet of minimal processed foods, lots of vegetables, some fruit and limited lean meat with 35 grams of fat per day or less is the key. As long as I do this my reliance on antidepressant medication is greatly reduced.

    April 20, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. three angles

    I've battled depression most of my life and the only thing that works for me is the combination of diet, exercise and a low dose of Lexapro every day. The exercise helps control my sleep patterns, which are key to depression. Insomnia increases symptoms exponentially, so hit that treadmill after a light dinner, get a good night's sleep, and you will be ahead of the game, even if you're not completely out of the woods. Good luck to all battling this illness

    April 20, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. themotivator

    Exercise is what has kept me glued together over the many years of depression and being abuse and used. It stimulates the Positive brain cells which helps keep flowing endless Positive thoughts

    April 20, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SD

    During the worst period of my depression, which was 9 months straight in 2006, even exercise did nothing. After trying 5 medications for weeks at a stretch, the 5th finally worked. But in the meantime, I tried exercise, desperately hoping for some relief, but for me it did zero– no change in mood, no increased ability to eat/gain weight back, no halt to the endless sobbing and panic. I am happy for those who get help from exercise. For me, only a drastic, medication induced, change in brain chemicals did the trick. But exercise is always to our benefit, physically, regardless. And when depression hits, ANYthing is worth trying!!! My best to all of you out there who deal with this sometimes devastating illness.

    April 20, 2012 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sld

      i totally agree! brain chemicals are unchanged by exercise. seeing your doctor is your best defense. exercise is great, but for those with clinical, long term depression, meds are necessary.

      April 20, 2012 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
  17. lmew

    Exercise does nothing for my mood. It just makes me more hungry. Eating right though does wonders! I took zoloft for awhile and it helped with my shyness, so sometimes I think about going back on it for that.

    April 20, 2012 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Thank you! I think I must be doing it wrong or something. Just makes me tired, not in a good way.

      April 22, 2012 at 03:18 | Report abuse |
  18. David Criswell

    Nancy, we hope you find TrainingPeaks to be a useful tool to track your training and nutrition on your journey to the finish line!

    Let us know if we can ever help and good luck in your tri!

    April 20, 2012 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Problem

    I wonder how many of these people actually have diagnosable depression vs weepies/blues/pessimism/self-esteem issues. A person with diagnosable depression likely won't have the motivation to exercise, won't feel "better" doing anything. When you have depression you lose interest in activities, you have considerable difficulty self-motivating, you experience hopelessness, etc. While I don't doubt exercise may be able to help some, I highly doubt most individuals exeriencing depression would find it helpful, nor be able to motivate themselves to try it nor continue with it.

    April 20, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Crocky

      I wholeheartedly agree. I was misdiagnosed with clinical depression, then bipolar II when I was in my 20s and early 30s. As it turns out, I had a hormone imbalance and self-esteem issues. I got the imbalance squared away, made changes in my life, and I've never felt better.

      I just hope that those that are truly diagnosed with clinical depression do get the help they need, no matter what form it is, INCLUDING medication, which I'm sure happens in most cases, since it is a chemical issue. You wouldn't stop taking your insulin if you were diabetic, simply because of a stigma, would you? Diabetes and clinical depression have one thing in common: THEY ARE BOTH MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT NEED TO BE TREATED.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
  20. GBfromOhio

    Getting your neurotransmitters in balance is a critical part of combating depression. Exercise is ONE tool for doing so, and should be part of a holistic approach to good health / healing. You do not have to run a triathlon, although that is a great goal up to a point, a trainer I used to work out with would say "less is sometimes more", so true and something you learn if you are a veteran of the exercise world like me.

    April 20, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. IC

    I am happy you shared this tory. I feel the same about exercise too. It is a natural detox to one's mind.

    April 20, 2012 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jt_flyer

    Unfortunatly anxiety is the only true cure for depression.

    April 20, 2012 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I have found that if I "push myself" to exercise, I become anxious, and then tired in a bad way afterward.

      April 22, 2012 at 03:20 | Report abuse |
  23. Chris J.

    While I'm glad the exercise regiment worked for this person, I'm guessing it only works for mild depression. I've been battling severe depression for over 10 years. I have such a struggle getting out of bed, much less going to the gym. Even taking a simple walk is torture. Maybe I'm missing something. Does the article say all depression can be cured with exercise? If so how do I get past the heavy cloud that prevents me from even getting out of my apartment?

    April 20, 2012 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      Chris, you aren't missing anything in my opinion. Clinical Major Depression is real and when you have it – you know it. For me, it was next to impossible to get out of bed, leave the house or do anything but have panic attacks and cry. I could barely get through basic day to day existence, let alone consider an exercise program. That thought was too overwhelming. If possible, you might consider seeing a professional who is experienced in treating patients with Major Depression. People who have actually had Major depression and people who can treat it will completely understand what you are saying. Good luck!

      April 21, 2012 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  24. Portland tony

    Can't speak for clinically depressed, but two hours in the weight room does wonders for my Psyche and sense of well being. After my third week, my endorphins were on fire after the work out!

    April 20, 2012 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. elle

    Yes, it DOES help. I got off my lexapro to get pregnant & later started feeling the depression again...but right after going to the gym for an hour I'd notice my mood improved (I wasn't as sluggish, negative, hopeless, feeling blah). Then I'd not go to the gym for a while again, start feeling depressed again but right after going I'd feel better

    April 20, 2012 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Rich in US

    Unless someone has experienced severe, clinically diagnosable depression, there is almost no chance he or she can even come close to understanding it, or knowing how to treat it. Experiencing it includes reaching the depths of, and feeling the full impact of, becoming totally suicidal. If you have never actually made a decision to kill yourself, you have not felt, and you do nut fully understand, complete, actual depression – for this is what total depression does to a human being. It makes me happy that so many people are concerned, and so many have written in here. But very many of you who have commented here make it clear with your words that you simply do not understand. One of the few here who clearly DO understand is KSObserver. The nail has been hit on the head, thanks to her/him. Please read, reread, and reread again what KSObserver wrote. if it does not make 100% sense to you, then you need to learn more before deciding how depression should be viewed/treated. You can learn more by talking to someone – anyone- who has somehow survived their own decision to commit suicide. There are many of us, and the greatest feeling on Earth, to us, is the feeling of actually saving another human being from their depression. PLEASE do not in any way shape form, or to any degree at all, no matter how slight, minimize another's feelings of depression. If you think that eating right and exercising regularly is enough, you are minimizing it.It may work for your milder case of depression, but someone who is trapped in a full depression cannot eat, period – much less find his/her way to a gym. (I had a therapist once, a very highly trained and experienced therapist, who did just that -minimize my depression – she in essence told me to man up.) Had I succeeded in my suicide attempt, she would have had to live with a portion of the guilt. Thank God I was fortunate enough to find another therapist, who prescribed imipramine, which saved my life. It continues to save it everyday. Over the years, I have tried several times to go off it, and each time I have returned to a state of massive depression, with suicidal thoughts. And Fiona, it was available in the 70s and 80s – you can take it from me.

    April 20, 2012 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      Thank you Rich! 100% on target.

      April 21, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse |
  27. Stevie

    I run 25 miles a week hoping I will die of a heart attack and it doesn't even take the edge off my depression. I have a heart arrythmia which has proved so far to be (unfortunately) non life threatening. I am too afraid to take my own life. I will not take medication.

    April 20, 2012 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      How about some talk therapy?

      April 22, 2012 at 03:24 | Report abuse |
    • KandyKane

      Why won't you take medication? Have you ever even tried it under the supervision of a psychiatrist?

      April 22, 2012 at 22:26 | Report abuse |
  28. Me Too

    To GaPeach, I too am too depressed to exercise.
    To Nancy K...I do walk out doors 2x a day for at least a half
    hour with my three dogs....It feels like a death march, just going through the motions.
    I dread the walks and I try to go to a different place every day for variety, hoping something
    will spur my interest. The dogs love it. I am on medication for depression. But to go and get tired and sweaty..
    for what....

    April 20, 2012 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. NBE

    I take anti-depressants, and these particular two have been very helpful, but I also walk 4-5 miles a day, and this makes me feel better. Today I reached 15,000 steps for the first time, and it was a bit of a rush to see that on the step-counter I wear. I don't even care if exercise is NOT correlated with greater psychological comfort; the physical benefit is indisputable, and when you feel physically better, you are reaping a great benefit in terms of general health. I was surprised how, at 66, I built endurance very quickly from my first walk of half a mile. Most encouraging and rewarding. And if you can walk where you live, I would recommend mapping out a route where your own front door is the halfway point. That way, you are never too far from a safe place where you can rest, use bathroom, etc., and then simply resume the second half of your route. I wear a back-pack with some weight in it, and this is, curiously, more comfortable than going without. I have a few bottles of water, some towels, hiking rations (juice, apple-sauce, cookies), and it is a great reassurance to know all this is on my back. Also, when it is hot, the ice against one's back is Really Nice. Good luck to all undertaking exercise, and also trying to keep depression at bay. I think advancing years just alone-no other factors-are helpful. This surprised me, as I thought young was good and old was bad, but this is not what I found, and glad to say so.

    April 20, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. notfornuthin


    Exercise has been shown to increase serotonin levels as well as the levels of endorphins, which lower blood pressure, generates the "runner's high" and is the body's endogenous version of morphine. You may want to try laughing more too, which has the same effects. Laughter Yoga is enjoyed by many people and some have claimed it cured them of depression. Good luck!

    April 20, 2012 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      Laughter yoga? I need to look into that. Thanks

      April 21, 2012 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Comedy is what I use to "medicate". MUCH more fun and less draining than exercising.

      April 22, 2012 at 03:26 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      i skydive and do ultramarathons

      April 24, 2012 at 03:54 | Report abuse |
  31. helensadornmentsblog

    This is great and think this lady is too cool but don't feel like a failure if this doesn't work for you. A combination of exercise and medication is needed for some. Also, don't try to treat depression by yourself. Reach out because there are many people who would love to help.

    April 20, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ardnek2012

    This is a wonderful article! I also tried antidepressants after I lost my mother and went thru a divorce and oh my, the drugs made me feel horrible. I joined a local gym and have made working out a daily routine that I look forward to! Good luck in your race and remember-–Chuck Norris never ran a triathlon! 😉

    April 20, 2012 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      Thanks so much for the great Chuck Morris comment!!!

      April 21, 2012 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
  33. Becky

    My brother was given anti-depressants and it made it worse and he committed suicide at age 24, my uncle also committed suicide after given anti-depressants. So I am all for something that is not drugs to help me with my depression. I will start tomorrow and see how I do.

    April 21, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MrDifficult

      Was he drinking water? It must have been the water! Or toilets! I'l bet they both touched a toilet within hours of suicide. Surely it was the toilet.

      April 21, 2012 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Becky- it would be very interesting to know which ones they took. There are so many antidepressants out there and they have different profiles, with some being more "motivational" than others. If you gave your family history to your provider, it would help them tailor something for you.

      In any case-hope the exercise is useful!
      Mr Difficult- what a jerk you are.

      April 22, 2012 at 03:30 | Report abuse |
  34. JImmie

    There is an excellent book called, "The Compass of Pleasure," by David J. Linden, which talks about how our brains respond to pleasure. Here is an excerpt from the chapter on exercise:

    "Sustained physical exercise, whether it be running or swimming or cycling or some other aerobic activity, has well-known health benefits, including improvements in the function of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine systems. Voluntary exercise is also associated with long-term improvements in mental function and is the single best thing one can do to slow the cognitive decline that accompanies normal aging. Exercise has a dramatic anti-depressive effect. It blunts the brain's response to physical and emotional stress. A regular exercise program produces a large number of changes in the brain, including new growth and branching of small blood vessels, and increases in the geometric complexity of some neuronal dendrites (memory cells)."

    April 21, 2012 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. kacey

    Ms. Klinger, if you have overcome your depression with exercise, good for you. Your situation was therefore not as extreme as others for whom diet, exercise, and other self-help remedies are insufficient. Depression and bipolar disorder are physiological in nature and may very well require medication in order for the patient to simply continue on with life. I found your article irresponsible for suggesting that medication is somehow an unnecessary "crutch" for weak people. I hope your article doesn't do damage to those who are suffering with mental illness.

    April 21, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      I am incomplete agree with the thoughtful comments about the fact that although exercise is helping me, I am sadly aware that true significant clinical depression must be treated with many different modalities, including medication for many.

      April 21, 2012 at 21:08 | Report abuse |
  36. LAB

    I've had severe major clinical depression for years. I'm glad the exercise bit worked for the article's writer, but articles like this can provide false hope for those who NEED medication, or at the very least have the potential to make the sufferer feel worse about themselves for "not trying hard enough." It's akin to people telling you to "just snap out of it." You can't.

    This article does more damage than good.

    April 21, 2012 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rick Morris

    Nancy, I'm so proud of you and look forward to crossing that finish line with you. You're an amazing person.

    April 21, 2012 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lenny

    Back to one of those first world problems. When you have to work 16 hours a day to food on the table, there isn't really much time to be depressed.

    April 21, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Well, Mr Sympathy, people working 16 hour days have been known to commit suicide too.

      April 22, 2012 at 03:33 | Report abuse |
  39. MrDifficult

    Can't exercise your way out of being a useless old bat.

    April 21, 2012 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      Wanna bet?

      April 21, 2012 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
    • fks

      These remarks are useless, antagonistic and come from someone who definitely has their own issues. Please collapse the messages from this person

      April 21, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
  40. Honey

    I am also dealing with depression and sometimes I visit ideas of suicide...but my children need me. So I have started working out again...and it does help. I have to get out of bed and I have to work in order to take care of myself...and yes, some days are harder than others. As of late, I've stopped spending time with my friends and just concentrating on myself. I am trying to get to the 'happy place' again. (smile) I am also trying to restrengthen my faith because it is just hard for me to believe after the things I've had to endure in the last 3.5 yrs. I just take it one day at a time...and everyday it is a challenge but I give it all that I have. If I didn't, I would not be here. I love the article and I truly can relate.

    April 21, 2012 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. IRI

    Congratulations on your road to recovery. I also suffer from severe depression and found this article to be very helpful almost hopeful. I wish you the best and continued success in your strides to a happier life. I am currently working towards getting back into the gym as well as I found it very helpful. I have been out of the gym routine for over a month mainly due to dealing with a serious bout of depression and anxiety. This article could not have come at a better time. Best of luck.

    April 21, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. D

    The only tip I would give, as someone who really hates to exercise is to have an exercise buddy. For me, it is the only way that I will do it at all.

    April 22, 2012 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. peace craver

    Hi Nancy,

    What do you suggest for the depressed person with physical disability.

    April 22, 2012 at 06:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy Klinger

      It would certainly depend on what the disability is but I can tell you that one of my teammates is an amputee and is doing incredible things.

      April 22, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
  44. stilllearning2b

    Exercise was one of my primary therapies after a traumatic divorce. It helped to lower my anxiety and improve my mood. It encouraged me to be social and to get outside. It was a wonderful companion through the dark times and it continues to be my friend.

    April 22, 2012 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Norine

    This is a very encouraging post, thank you. I just got home from a good walk and read this. The walk happened because I MADE myself get off the couch and get outside. Reading this helps confirm what I know to be true, and makes me want to get back into healthy (mentally and physically) habits. After the end of a 24 year marriage due to my husband's bipolar disorder, then he walked on a highway and was killed. My grown daughters and I moved away from that part of our lives, and the girls are doing well. But I'm stuck in my loss.
    I am that positive, strong woman everyone counts on, but I have felt so utterly alone. If I can just hold onto this message you wrote about, I feel like I have the best chance of being happy again. This and getting out to meet people. I'm working on both.
    Thank you again for telling your story.

    April 22, 2012 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Alicia

    Am I the only one that noticed how she was not speaking in first person when laying out a description of the behaviors of depression? I am disappointeed with CNN for running such a wishy-washy article about depression. I agree that exercise can help some people BEGIN the fight against depression. Did she sound sad? Yes. Did she sound as if she were grieving? Yes. Did she sound truly depressed? No.

    I am one of many who occasionally suffer from depression. It is usually just a minor case of the blues, but on occasion it turns into all out sadness – so much so you ache.

    YOU purposely stay away from things that make YOU happy, YOU don’t like yourself, and YOU cry a lot (when YOU'RE alone). YOU hate YOURSELF for feeling badly while really being so incredibly fortunate.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Larry

    Doctors love to throw a pill at any hint of depression. Are there really people who have never experienced a moment of
    depression in there lives? Who are absolutely safe from walking into a doctors office on a bad day and ending up with a
    life long diagnosis and addiction?

    Exercise is my "anti-depressant", unlike SSRIs almost all of its side effects are positive. Unlike the SSRIs it doesn't "pool
    out", it does have some withdrawal symptoms but not the raging agony filled violent psychosis of someone off there Effexor.
    It should be the first line treatment for minor depression symptoms.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eeyore

      It's "their lives", Larry. Not "there".

      Sorry, but there are many people for whom it's not a "moment of depression", which isn't really depression at all. Your lack of understanding of the disease is astounding. For many people, depression is a life-long battle that they fight every day, not for a "moment".

      And if medication helps them, what's YOUR beef with it? Get over it, dude, you aren't a doctor and I don't take medical advice from people who can't figure out the difference between "their" and "there".

      April 22, 2012 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
  48. dp


    I read through all the comments and feel badly that you are getting so beat up. I am curious to know if you actually received a depression diagnosis. I was seriously depressed and diagnosed in 2001. I am in general a huge fan of natural and holistic approaches, but I must say I might have taken my own life had I not accepted medication for my major depression. I was unable to work, I was in bed all day and up all night, I went days without showering, and I ate only to fend off the aches of hunger by making whatever required the least effort. I wanted to die. This was real and dangerous and the idea of just throwing on some running shoes and hitting the pavement was nowhere near a realistic possibility. I was dragged to a doctor by my family who flew to Florida from NJ to rescue me. I was prescribed an anti-depression medication and the moment I wanted to live again I started doing all the natural and holistic things I knew would help me stay on track. I took the meds for only 3 months and never have experienced such depression again. I have been sad since, crying when Alone sometimes... Feeling guilty for feeling bad when my life is actually spectacular, isolating and so forth... And i go running or to yoga or watch a funny movie, and i get back to joyful. But I never consider myself depressed when I feel that way because it is nothing compared to the time I actually was. There is a giant difference. As there is between cases of depression. I am sorry you have suffered with deep sadness/mild depression and I truly hope you never experience a major depression. I hope all those who are experiencing what you have find hope and encouragement in your story.


    April 22, 2012 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. chana

    Depression can be cured by excersing,music, a punching bag, drinks n dinner w your closest friends.i can understand why ppl get depressed, but to the extent where they take thier own life is beyond understanding, to leave behind the ppl that love you all because of your own selfish reasons is crazy but then again i guess p ppl can be driven to that point, when i am feeling depressed i always try to look at tghe bright side and or music, hanging with the ppl i love or taking my frustraions out on a punching bag always helps, good luck with it all.

    April 22, 2012 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I call BS

      Look up the definition of 'depression', chana. It's not just 'the blues' or a bout of tears over a lost boyfriend. It's debilitating. It isn't something so easily 'cured' by just listening to music or hitting a punching bag.

      April 22, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • dp

      Suicidal thoughts and attempts are not a choice that a depressed person makes out of selfishness. Depression is a serious mental illness. You clearly do not understand why people get depressed, or anything else about it.

      April 22, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  50. Belinda

    For many years now, I've recommended exercise as one of the best treatments for depression. I'm very prone to depression, but found that if I'm getting a lot of exercise, I really don't need the anitdepressants. In fact, the exercise works BETTER and more consistently, I've found. Unfortunately, I've had to go back on them following a catastrophic bicycle accident... high winds blew me over a cliff, where I fell 30 ft. to granite boulders. I've been unable to get much exercise since. However, that may soon change! I'm starting some new pain therapies for the 9 spinal fractures I sustained, and last week not only managed to ride on the 7 month anniversary of my wreck, I even climbed a mountain with my bicycle!!

    April 22, 2012 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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