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Jumpstart Your Workout Motivation When You Have the Blues

Picture of American Specialty Health
By American Specialty Health on July 29, 2022
Jumpstart Your Workout Motivation When You Have the Blues

When you’ve got the blues, exercise may feel downright impossible. But you can revive your workout motivation, and thereby your mood, with these 7 tips.


When your spirits are down, it can be hard to get your body up. Your workout motivation understandably tends to tank. Your fitness level can take a hit, too. Under the circumstances, a drop in motivation is normal. Depression—or even a rise in stress or a drop in mood—can disrupt your sleep, sap your energy, and make even small tasks feel monumental.

But here’s the rub. When the situation lingers, moving can become even harder. And that can further worsen your mood. Pretty soon you might become stuck in a vicious cycle. But getting your body in motion can be one of the best ways to break that cycle and lift your spirits.

Boosting your heart rate and blood flow even a notch can spark energy and sharpen focus. It can buoy slumping spirits and help push you past your inertia. While exercising may not solve every problem, it can help put you in a better frame of mind. And that can make solving your problems a lot easier.
How does exercise improve mental health?

Small bouts of movement and regular exercise can enhance your mood and even ease depression. Getting active can boost your confidence. It can offer a temporary, healthy distraction from your blues.

Working out can also help boost your social engagement, which is known to ease stress and boost mental well-being. Learn more about the many ways exercise can support your mental health.

Routine exercise actually changes your brain. Sustained, low- to moderate-intensity workouts trigger the release of a protein that boosts the birth of new brain cells. It also enhances the connections between them. One part of the brain where this happens is in the hippocampus, a structure that plays a key role in mood.

Higher-intensity exercise can also help with mood. It does this by boosting levels of feel-good endorphins in the brain. This leads to a happy state known as “runner’s high.”

But you don’t have to knock out a full workout to turn your mood around. When you’re sagging under the weight of worry or a temporary case of the blues, your best move is simply to move. Once you do that, graduating to more routine exercise becomes easier.

Here are 7 tips to help get you moving and boost your workout motivation:

  1. Start smaller. Moving even a little bit may be all you need to start feeling more like yourself. Get going with 5 to 10 minutes of walking or stretching. Then note how you feel. Better? If so, you might want to add a few more minutes.

    You might even feel like doing something more vigorous. If not, that’s OK, too. Just try for even a small bout of movement each day.

  2. Make it tempting. If you have great music, a good audiobook, or a podcast that you’re hooked on, use them when you exercise. Those little indulgences can be a big help on days when your motivation is low.

    Go for a walk or do some squats and lunges while tuned in to something you love listening to. Or pair some biceps curls and push-ups with your favorite TV show. Research also suggests that the right music can help make workouts feel less arduous. That can help boost your workout motivation in a big way.

  3. Have some easy fun. You don’t need to do a structured workout. If you don’t love running even on your most pumped days, why push yourself to tread on the ‘mill when your motivation is low?

    Instead, move in casual ways that you enjoy. Maybe that’s dancing around the living room, shooting hoops, walking your dog, body surfing, or riding a bike around your neighborhood. Workout motivation comes more easily when you’re having fun. Learn how this fun, active hobby gets you out in nature, stimulates your mind, and helps enhance your mood.

  4. Find the best time. If you’re starting to take things up a notch and scheduling more formal workouts, timing is key. If you tend to feel mentally and/or physically drained at the end of the day, plan your workouts in the morning, midday, or early afternoon. Low energy often equals low motivation, so figure out the times of the day you feel most up for exercise.

  5. Track your progress. Keep track of when you work out, what kind of activity you did, and how long you spent doing it. Make note of how you felt afterwards, too. Better? More energized? How well did you sleep that night? Jot all of this down in a notebook or on your phone or tablet. Tracking the fruits of your labor is a great way to stay motivated.

  6. Think of movement as self-care. When you’re down, you might need to be more patient with yourself and practice some self-love. Physical activity—at any level of intensity—can be just the TLC your body, mind, and spirit need.

    Focusing on the benefits may help you break out of a slump and infuse yourself with new energy. Find out how combining your fitness routine with a good deed can boost your exercise motivation in a big way.

  7. Celebrate. Be proud that you’re making an effort to take care of yourself and your health. You don’t need to win marathons to celebrate your achievements.

    Pat yourself on the back and savor the sense of accomplishment you feel after each workout or short burst of movement. Reward yourself with a warm shower, a good meal, or an early bedtime.


Remind yourself that each step you take to getting more active is leading you closer to better physical and mental health. You may find that you feel like yourself again very soon. And your workout motivation may return right along with that improved mood. But if your depressed mood persists, reach out to your health care provider for support right away.



Not a Silver&Fit® member? Learn more about everything the program has to offer, including more helpful healthy living tips like this, here on our website.


This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program. Images used for this article do not depict any members of the Silver&Fit Program.


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Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

Robinson, L., Segal, J., & Smith, M. (2021, August). The mental health benefits of exercise. Helpguide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

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Mayo Clinic. (2018). Depression. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

Mayo Clinic. (2021). Fitness: Tips for staying motivated. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20047624

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This article was written by Gail Olson, edited by Jason Nielsen, and clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RDN.


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