Calisthenics Against Depression: 9 Science-Based Facts

Dark days.

We all have those.

But what happens when those days turn into dark weeks? Dark months? Or even dark years?


Lack of motivation. No energy. And perhaps you even feel like your life has no meaning. 

You’ll never measure up. You’ll never get strong enough. And any day now, everyone will see that you have been falling apart.

That’s how you feel anyway. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there too.

And I have discovered the way out. 


Here is a secret:

“Many of the people you look up to and admire have been in a dark place at some point in their lives.”

The turning point?

At their darkest hours and at the deepest point of not-giving-a-fuck, they somehow found a way to switch on the lights.

Discover why exercise can help you cure your depression.  




What Is Depression?


Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and sense of well-being (1).


What is the difference between feeling bad and being depressed?

Things are different for people who have depression.

Their sadness and negative thoughts last longer and overshadow all of their thoughts and actions.

Depression can arise without any triggering events or for no apparent reasons (2).


Key Takeaway: What we can infer from this is that if you have a ‘low state of mood that lasts longer and negatively affects your well-being’, you are most likely suffering from depression.


What do we know about the causes of depression?

What we know so far from depression is that it can be caused by ‘shitloads’ of things.

Ranging from: genetic factors, neurotransmitters, gut health, trauma, nutrition, hormonal imbalances and even immune diseases (3).

Major depression is a complex disorder that does not result from either genetic or environmental influences alone but rather from both. These findings are notably consistent across samples and methods and are likely to be generally applicable (4).


So we need to realise that ‘curing’ depression does not work through a ‘magic-pill’ approach.

Just taking medication, doesn’t solve the problem.

It’s holding you together with ‘ducktape’.




The 9 Science-Based Effects Of Exercise On Depression


What does science say about exercise and its effects on depression?

It has been wel documented that exercise has major benefits on brain, gut, immune, hormonal, skeletal and overall health in general.

It doesn’t take any rocket science to discover that just taking a short walk can already elevate your levels of mood.

BUT let’s get to the ‘real data’.


1. Depressed people generally exercise less than non-depressed people.

Research has also shown that depressed patients are less fit and have diminished physical work capacity on the order of 80% to 90% of age-predicted norms (5).


2. Exercise improves mood.

Early case studies concluded that, at least for some, moderate-intensity exercise should be beneficial for depression and result in a happier mood (6).


3. Exercise reduces symptoms of depression.

Many studies have examined the efficacy of exercise to reduce symptoms of depression, and the overwhelming majority of these studies have described a positive benefit associated with exercise involvement (7).


4. Walking 20–40 minutes a day for 3 times a week can alleviate symptoms already.

The exercise intervention consisted of walking 20 to 40 minutes 3 times per week for 6 weeks. The authors reported that the exercise program alleviated overall symptoms of depression (8).


5. Exercise can have long lasting positive effects on depression.

Research also suggests that the benefits of exercise involvement may be long lasting. Depressed adults who took part in a fitness program displayed significantly greater improvements in depression, anxiety, and self-concept than those in a control group after 12 weeks of training (9).


6. Resistance training and aerobic training have similar positive effects on depression.

Results indicated that the 2 activities were not significantly different, and that both types of exercise were sufficient to reduce symptoms of depression (10).


7. Running is just as effective at treating depression as going to a therapist.

The running group met 3 times per week and exercised for 20 minutes per session. Those in the therapy-only group met with a therapist for 60 minutes once a week. Those in the combination group received 10 individual sessions with a therapist and also ran 3 times per week. There were no significant differences between these 3 groups, with all groups displaying a significant reduction in depression, and the positive benefits were still present at the 4-month follow-up (11)


8. Exercise works slower, but better than medication against depression.

Results showed that while medication worked more quickly to reduce symptoms of depression, there were no significant differences among treatment groups at 16 weeks. The percentage of patients in remission from their depression at 16 weeks did not differ among groups. Therefore, exercise was as effective as medication for reducing symptoms of depression in that sample. Interestingly, 10-month follow-up of those participants revealed that exercise group members (70%) had significantly lower rates of depression than those in the medication (48%) or the combination groups (12) .


9. Exercise has a 70+% success rate at improving depressive symptoms. Treatment is considered accepted at a 50% success rate.

These values reflect an increase in success rate due to treatment (i.e., exercise) of 67%, 71%, and 74%, respectively, and such promising treatment outcomes are notable. In medical settings, clinical guidelines suggest that a 50% reduction in symptoms during the treatment phase is considered a treatment response (13).


DISCLAIMER: While these benefits ARE NOT meant to argue against the use of anti-depressant medication or psychological therapies, there is strong evidence to advocate the use of exercise as a potentially powerful adjunct to existing treatments.


Key TakeawayGo exercise consistently if you want to start curing your depression or feel better in general.

Whether that’s running, calisthenics, weightlifting or juggling bananas.

Do what you like and do it at least 3 times a week for 20–40 minutes.



Knock Out Your Depression By Training Yourself Into Motivation 


Sometimes life is like the 5th round in a do-or-die fight, it hits you in the face without a warning.


Lights go out. The noise fades out. But you refuse to stay down. 


You sense your knees wobbling a bit and feel like shit, but you don’t care about making it look pretty.

You wipe the sticky blood from your lips and the steamy sweat from your face.

You take a good look through your swollen eyes and for the last time, contract your jaw and clench your fists…



You punch life back in the face with EVERYTHING you have.

When that punch lands and trust me IT WILL.

You’ll be the one who’s dancing under those lights.


Beast mode ON!


Now I’d like to hear from you:

Did you like this post?

Or maybe you have a question.

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now.




13 thoughts on “Calisthenics Against Depression: 9 Science-Based Facts

  1. I am loving these tips that you guys are giving me because of you I am excelling in my workouts. I am 19 years old but the one thing I’m having the hardest time doing is the dragon flag I was wondering if you could give me some personal advice about what I could do to help myself excel even more

    1. Hey Johnathan,

      Thanks for your question.

      Start with the basics. Leg raises, rather than working on your dragon flag start working on your back lever and front lever. These will translate to much higher level skills than the dragon flag.

      Beast mode ON!

  2. Hey Rich,

    Another great article! I’ve always thought that dealing with depression through other means than therapy is very important.
    One thing about exercise that I’ve always loved is that it gives me something that is “all mine” and that can give me a sense of purpose or improvement when other areas of my life feel stuck or aren’t going the way I want them to.
    I can always grab my kettlebell or jump up onto my pull up bar and feel my own strength and improvement while also having a sense of play that can sometimes be lacking as I get older and busier.

    1. Hey Conor,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Definitely agree with you there. It’s truly an empowering feeling and something everyone should be able to tap into I believe.

      Happy to read that you are still going strong my friend, stay on the move!

      Beast mode ON!

    2. I totally agree, working out and making progress and invest in yourself while other things in life not going well and stagnating is helping.



  3. Hey Rich,

    I can confirm pretty much everything in this article from first hand.

    Calisthenics and the ambition to achieve a better overall health condition for my body has pulled me from a really dark place.

    2 years later, I am down from 120 kg to 90kg and rocking them handstand pushups, full leg raises etc.

    To anyone reading this, keep in mind you are just ONE STEP away from a happier life 🙂

    Keep it up!

  4. Interesting and true!

    Thanks for your article 🙂

    Same here, I started my journey around two years ago. I was depressed, in a very dark period of my life, in one year I went from 76kg to around 92kg, I did not fell like to do anything at all….. I started working out just to lose weight. “Magically” my life changed, my state of mind changed. Calisthenics is now an important part of my life. What worked/works for me psychologically? The small goals and targets I was / I am able to achieve.
    Have a big project in your mind, but unpacking your big-picture thinking into a handful of specific goals will make it that much more easy….
    And of course, If you are facing depression you should also consider to ask for help!

    Thank U guys

  5. This article apply s to me also.
    I suffer from Dysthymia / chronic depression and calisthenics is always getting me back on track even when i keep stop and start over again.
    That is very frustrating to start over and over again but still this is true.
    Some periods i keep up longer then other times.
    I really like to keep consistency but in hard periods i cant keep it up.
    I also always training alone and have nobody in real life to share the sport with and motivate each other.
    So if anybody around Groningen (I’m 39 year male from Loppersum) like to meet up in a workout park or something, maybe a training buddy help me keep motivated in hard times.



    1. Hey Peter,

      Thanks for your contribution.

      There is a very active calisthenics group in Groningen, they train every sunday. You are more than welcome to join the movement.

      I can recommend you to contact Emilio who is currently leading some group training sessions. You can find him at

      Just say Rich sent you.

      Beast mode ON!

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