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The Best Exercises for When You’re Feeling Sad

Sadness can quickly change your fitness goals and make you less motivated to work out. When your heart and mind need to be in the right place, even simple physical tasks like making your bed and cooking a healthy breakfast are low on your list of priorities.

When you’re feeling down, putting exercise first can help you feel better. Working out can help you get out of a bad mood and change it into something more positive.

In an extensive study on exercise and mental health, researchers found that exercise could change how your brain works and make you feel less depressed and anxious.

The following five exercises are likely to improve your mood, making you more motivated to work on your physical and mental strength.

30 Minutes of Meditation + 30 Minutes of Walking

A study from Translational Psychiatry says that a split session of about 60 minutes of meditation and cardio can help a lot with depression and ruminating thoughts.

Spend 20 minutes sitting and meditating using the same method that researchers used with study participants. Then, walk slowly for the next 10 minutes and pay attention to how you move from one foot to the next. This lets blood flow to your arms and legs before you start the aerobic part of your workout.

After you’ve meditated and warmed up slowly, walk for 30 minutes, getting your heart rate up to 50–70% of its max. (Researchers suggest a five-minute warm-up and cool-down at the beginning and end of this 30-minute cardio section.) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can figure out your heart rate by taking your age and subtracting it from 220. The number you get is your age-related maximum heart rate.

10-Minute Balance Routine

Researchers looked at the link between exercise and happiness in a systematic review from the Journal of Happiness Studies. They found that as little as 10 minutes of physical activity can make people feel better. In randomized, controlled studies, researchers found that balance exercises were a good way to get these feelings.

Balance exercises that can provide optimal happiness gains include:

Walking Heel-to-Toe

Start this simple balance exercise by walking forward heel-to-toe five times while keeping your head up and looking 10 to 12 feet ahead. Like yoga poses, which open up the chest, walking heel-to-toe opens the heart and makes you aware of your posture, which can help you feel more confident. 

Toe Walks

You can work out different leg muscles by taking 10 steps with your toes off the ground. You should do this exercise over and over again for a few minutes. If your feet hurt, take at most a few steps at a time.

In a study on balance exercises like toe walking, researchers found that the exercises made people feel better about themselves and made them walk faster. Even better, the exercises were fun and enjoyable for those who did them.


This exercise begins with you seated in a chair; without assistance, you push through your feet to achieve balance. This movement engages the abdominals, hips, and legs. This should be repeated 10 times.

According to published research, despite the fact that this is a simple action, it will improve your neurological health.

The act of standing engages and focuses the brain on the movement; it also improves blood circulation and oxygenates the brain.

Straight Leg Raises

To start a straight leg raise, lift one leg backwards while keeping your abs tight and knees straight. As your thigh comes off the floor, keep your knee straight. Hold your leg up for two seconds, and then put it down. You can do this exercise 10 to 15 times on one leg and then on the other.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says that adding balance exercises like the straight leg raise can increase the amount of energy you use and make it easier for you to do what you love.

50-Minute Walk in Nature

A study on the health benefits of exercise and nature says that you should go to the nearest green hills when you’re sad.

Researchers looked at how people’s feelings of happiness, sadness, anxiety, and stress changed before and after a 50-minute walk on a forest path, a 50-minute walk along a busy road, and a period of doing normal daily activities. The results showed that forest walks were the best way to improve mental health. 16

To make sure you are safe in the forest, the CDC suggests:

  • Pick trails that are shaded or near streams during hot weather.
  • Carry water. In cold weather, you’ll need to drink more.
  • Take a friend with you for safety in numbers (and the mental health benefits of friendship).
  • Use assistance. A hiking stick can take a little pressure off your legs and knees.

Some people only feel sad for a short time. One day you’re sad, the next day, you feel okay. But not everyone is like this. If you feel down all the time or have chronic depression, you might want to talk to a healthcare professional for help. If you ask for help, you can get the necessary resources and medical care. You don’t have to suffer alone.