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Can Running Really Replace Antidepressants?

Posted on November 16 by Melysa

Running has long been touted as a natural mood booster, and recent studies have suggested that it may be an effective treatment for depression. However, can running really replace antidepressants?

Running has a number of benefits for mental health, including:

  • Reducing stress: Running releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.

  • Improving mood: Running can help to increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that play a role in regulating mood.

  • Increasing self-esteem: Running can help to improve body image and self-esteem, which can contribute to a better overall mood.

  • Providing a sense of accomplishment: Finishing a run can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence.

Study Findings

A 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that running was as effective as antidepressants in reducing symptoms of depression in adults with mild to moderate depression. The study tracked participants over a 16-week period and found that both groups experienced significant improvements in their symptoms.

Another study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2020, found that running could be an effective maintenance therapy for people with depression who have been successfully treated with antidepressants. The study found that participants who continued to run after their antidepressant treatment were less likely to relapse than those who did not.

Limitations and Considerations

It is important to note that running is not a cure for depression and may not be effective for everyone. People with severe depression may need additional treatment, such as medication or therapy.

Running can also be challenging for some people, especially those who are new to exercise or have physical limitations. It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the distance and intensity of your runs.


While running cannot replace antidepressants for everyone, it can be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Running is a safe and natural way to improve mood, reduce stress, and boost self-esteem. If you are considering running as a treatment for depression, talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you.

It is also important to remember that running is just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan for depression. Other important factors include maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.

If you are struggling with depression, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to support you, including mental health professionals, support groups, and hotlines.

Additional Resources

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):


  • The Jed Foundation: