spring-3Exercise is an evidence-based treatment for depression and anxiety. Science demonstrates that in the treatment of depression, exercise is just as effective as other established forms of treatment such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and anti-depressant medications (Johnsen & Fribog, 2015; Kirsch et al, 2008; Kvam et al, 2016).

Exercise and Neurotransmitters

When your child exercises neurotransmitters (brain chemicals linked to mood) are increased in a manner similar to that of antidepressant medication. At the end of a four-month study, individuals in an exercise group, when compared to a placebo, no longer met the criteria for major depression disorder, suggesting they had recovered. The exercise group had also increased their fitness level and confidence because of the exercise program.

Psychologists believe that exercise is beneficial to mental health for several reasons:

  • Regular increase can increase your child’s focus and energy levels, which may affect how they engage in academic activities.
  • Movement can help your child sleep better which is an important, given the role of poor sleep in the maintenance of mental health problems.
  • Exercise can lead to increases in self-esteem, confidence, and resilience.
  • A regular exercise regimen lowers your child’s risk of illness.
  • Exercise enhances cognitive performance.

Exercise is supported by striking scientific evidence as a treatment for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Studies demonstrate that exercise can be more effective than face-to-face counseling and medication (Richardson et al, 2005). Exercise has fewer side effects than medication and increases self-esteem, making it a powerful way to treat mental health disorders. The therapists at Mindful Child combine exercise with evidence-based therapy interventions such as mindfulness to create a highly effective and individualized treatment plan for your child.


Budde, H., & Wegner, M. (Eds.). (2018). The Exercise Effect on Mental Health: Neurobiological Mechanisms. CRC Press.

Johnsen, T. J., & Friborg, O. (2015). The effects of cognitive behavioral therapy as an anti-depressive treatment is falling: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 141(4), 747.

Kirsch, I., Deacon, B. J., Huedo-Medina, T. B., Scoboria, A., Moore, T. J., & Johnson, B. T. (2008). Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS medicine, 5(2), e45.

Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: a meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 202, 67-86.

Richardson, C. R., Faulkner, G., McDevitt, J., Skrinar, G. S., Hutchinson, D. S., & Piette, J. D. (2005). Integrating physical activity into mental health services for persons with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 56(3), 324-331.