Physical Activity

And it’s not just to keep our weight in check. We need to be active for our biological systems to work properly - this includes our brain functioning. Our bodies and minds are connected and in constant communication, so physical activity can affect what goes on in our brains, and vice versa.

Man walking a dog

When a guy is depressed, his physical activity will suffer too

Fatigue, lethargy, and a general lack of motivation to do anything when you’re depressed can really slow you down.

But just as depression can impact your physical activity, you can use physical activity to fight depression. Researchers have found that establishing a regular exercise routine can actually reduce depression. Physical activity releases brain chemicals that relieve stress, promote alertness, and improve overall mental well-being. It also helps improve self-esteem. With so much to gain and nothing to lose (except for a few extra pounds if you’re carrying them), building physical activity into your daily routine just makes sense.


Guy jogging outside to combat depression

Getting exercise into your life

Here you will find some tips that can help you tackle a couple of key problems related to physical activity when a guy is depressed: 1) not having enough energy, and 2) not knowing how to get started.

We also provide some tips for regular physical activity. Usually, the biggest hurdle for guys is the “go big or go home” attitude, meaning that a lot of guys carry the misconception that “proper” exercise has to be complicated, sophisticated, and very physically demanding.  But this isn’t the case. Routine physical activity can be simple, straightforward, and fun. Introducing small changes that are maintained over the long haul will have a huge impact on keeping your mind and body working well.

For more comprehensive information and guidance about exercise and physical activity, scroll to the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page.

Don't have enough energy?
Don’t know how to get started?
Tips for regular physical activity
Don't have enough energy?

Depression can drain your energy, making you feel tired, slow, and unmotivated to do even the simplest task.  And the kicker is, the more you slow down, the more tired and listless you end up feeling. Here are a few tips to help you get things moving forward again.


Think movement

Forget comparing yourself with the neighbour who jogs – start with the simple act of moving. On your lowest days, this might mean just dragging yourself out of bed – but it’s a start and getting yourself in motion can actually help you feel more energized and put your mind in a better place.


Watch Trevor’s Tip Video: Think Movement.

Just do it

The days you feel least like doing something active are the most important days to do it. Those are the days when you will feel best after doing it.


Watch Ric’s Tip Video: Physical Activity, Stick With It.

Do it for someone else

Often we’ll bend over backwards for those we love. Think of your physical activity as necessary for helping your children, partner, friend, or pet. By helping them, you’re doing yourself some good too – it’s a win-win situation.

Positive thoughts, positive action

Negative thinking can really grind you down, so try flipping things around. Think of the good stuff about physical activity – more energy, better sleep, better appetite, clearer thinking – to help get you going. A positive mind frame will lead to positive action.

Recognize how hard this is

If you’ve managed to get yourself going – even for the simplest of things like washing the dishes, for example – take a moment to recognize that any kind of physical activity is really difficult when depression is at its worst. Use the momentum to carry you on to your next small task.

Don’t know how to get started?

When your thinking is clouded by depression, it can be hard to plan, organize, and get things started. A guy can end up doing nothing because he just doesn’t know where to begin. Below are some tips to get the ball rolling.

Keep it simple

It doesn’t have to be complicated – just keep things simple. If the most you can do is take a short walk, start there. The next day, try to do a little more and build on that.

Pick a convenient activity

It’s more likely that you’ll do something if it’s easy and convenient. Walking or running don’t require much equipment and are easy to do from nearly anywhere. The same goes for swimming or exercise class — if it’s easy to get to and the timing is convenient, it’s more likely that you’ll go.

Do something you enjoy

If you don’t like an activity, chances are you’re not going to do it. But if you enjoy a particular activity — whether it’s walking, biking, or ping pong — you’ll be more likely to do it and stick with it over time. The important thing is to pick something you like. Then you’ll look forward to it and feel better when you do it.

Involve other people

Involving other people is a great way to motivate yourself to get active and be social. Join an exercise group or exercise with a friend. You’ll stay connected and you’ll have support to help you stay on track.

Use reminders

To make sure you don’t “forget” to do some physical activity, give yourself reminders. This could be as simple as a sticky note on your mirror reminding you to go for a walk in the morning.

Tips for regular physical activity

There are many ways that can you introduce physical activity into your daily life. While modest, they can add up to pay big dividends in the long run. The tips below can get you pointed in the right direction.

Try some mid-day motion

While it might not always be possible, taking a little break during your work-day to go for a walk, swim, or yoga class can make a world of difference. Your mind will be fresher, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll feel good.

Use manual transportation

A simple way to increase daily physical activity is to walk or cycle whenever you have to commute somewhere.

Take the stairs

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get your heart rate up is by skipping the elevator in favour of the stairs.

Make it social

Taking part in activities such as hikes or walks with friends or family members is a great way to have some fun with your fitness.

Work up a sweat

To get the most benefit out of any physical activity, you should try to get your heart rate up, work up a sweat, and keep at it for at least 30 minutes.

Spread it out

Physical activity needs to happen throughout the week. One or two exercise sessions won’t do you much good. Shoot for about 2-3 hours of moderate physical activity over the course of each week. It might seem like a lot, but you could aim for five separate 30 minute sessions each week. Spreading things out over the week makes it much more manageable.

Embrace variety

Variety is the spice of life. Make sure you vary your physical activity so that you don’t get bored. Check with your local community centre for different programs on offer.

Be realistic

Don’t break the bank when it comes to physical activities. Unless you are going to be using them regularly, avoid buying health club memberships or expensive equipment.

Routines are essential!

The most important thing when it comes to physical activity and making sure you get the most out of it is to make it a habit.

The importance of routine can’t be over-stated. There are a number of ways you can start routines for physical activity. Below are just a few tips to give you some ideas.

Set reasonable goals

Your mission doesn’t have to be working out in the gym five days a week. Think realistically about what you might be able to do. Tailor your plan to your needs and abilities rather than trying to meet unrealistic targets that you’re unlikely to meet.

Get more tips on goal setting in our Action Plan.

Make a commitment with another person or a group

Committing to a physical activity routine with a friend or family member will allow you to push and support each other.

Reward yourself

When you’re first establishing your routine, rewarding yourself can be helpful for staying motivated.

Build a lifelong habit

The purpose of physical activity is not about shedding a few pounds or reducing your pant size and then telling yourself that you made it. Rewarding yourself for such accomplishments is important, but when it comes down to it, the ultimate goal is for physical activity to become a lifelong habit that you take pride in and enjoy.