Depression after working out (5 coping tips)

In this article we will discuss a few possible reasons why you feel depressed (mood) after working out. 

We will also discuss the issue of overtraining and its impact on well-being as well as some of the steps you can take to cope with depression and your relationships with exercise.

Why do I feel depressed after working out?

Some of the possible reasons why you feel depressed after working out include:

  • You are overdoing it
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Wrong type of routine
  • Comparing with others
  • Overwhelming worries
  • Wrong environment
  • Wrong time of day

You’re overdoing it

While exercise or working out is a healthy habit, it is possible that it can come with negative side effects. Studies have found that over training is a major issue that many sports persons and other people who engage in exercise face.

Overtraining refers to the act of training above the body’s capacity for recovery. Studies find that the consequences of overtraining include

“…negatively affecting several physiological systems, including the neuroendocrine, immunological, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems, respectively. “

Overtraining has also been found to be connected to psychological withdrawal symptoms when one does not exercise. 

It has also been found that the misconceptions that working out till exhaustion is the right thing to do, is on the contrary, doing the opposite. Exhaustion causes your endorphin levels to drop, so you could find yourself lacking motivation the next time you get to the gym.

It is to be mentioned that depressed moods is also part of the symptoms of overtraining which include:

  • General fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of focus
  • And low or depressed moods 

You’ve set unrealistic expectations

Research finds that setting unrealistic expectations as opposed to what we can achieve can make people spiral into low moods due to personal disappointment.

The reason why you could be feeling depressed after spending hours of your life at the gym is because of the unrealistic expectations that you have set for yourself. 

Not listening to your body and not being aware of your limits can impact your relationship with exercise and your body. Setting your goals to be like that of other people- fitness gurus on social media- instead of what your body needs and is capable of could be the reason why you are struggling.

Wrong type of work out routine

Finding an exercise routine that works for you is important. If the current routine you are doing does not motivate you and rather makes you feel hopeless and lonely- it is time for you to consider something else.

For some exercises that one can do alone works while for others they could enjoy more social types of workouts- even having a workout buddy can help. 

The same old routine that you have been following for months can also be the cause of the low feeling because of the lack of challenge and newness. Challenge is important when it comes to motivation and not having a healthy amount of it can make the exercise routine mundane. 

Some research finds that aerobic exercises are found to have more impact on mental health as opposed to weightlifting. However, others might find that weightlifting does more good than running. 

Comparing yourself to others

One of the reasons why you feel worse after an hour at the gym could be because you are unhappy with the way you currently look. 

It can be intimidating when you are surrounded by people who are further along in their fitness journey than you are if you are insecure about how you look. 

If you find that these thoughts and insecurities are making you feel depressed, hopeless, and it is causing you to withdraw from working out- it is advisable that you speak to someone about it as it might be a larger issue. 

Overwhelming worries

Exercise has been proven to relieve stress and improve mood, but if your worries are overwhelming you and you notice that exercise is not helping, it would be more advisable for you to seek professional help instead of trying to deal with the stress with exercise since it is possible that the added exhaustion can make you feel worse than better.

Wrong Environment

The terrible mood or anxiety that you might be feeling because of the environment you are working out in. If you feel like people are judging you everytime you work out, it could be adding to mental stress. 

Or if you feel unsafe and people are objectifying you during your routines, the same anxiety and stress can make you feel extremely stressed causing you to feel anxious and maybe even depressed. 

Wrong Time of Day

One of the reasons you should be struggling mentally is because you are working out at the wrong time of the day. Working out too late in the evening can elevate cortisol in your body making it harder to sleep and increasing anxiety at night. 

Steps you can take to cope

Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression after working out:


If the symptoms of depression are affecting your ability to work or manage your responsibilities including your relationship, it is advisable that you seek professional help if you have not already sought out one. 

If you are engaged with a therapist or a prescribing medical professional, letting them know about your symptoms can help get the conversation started so that they can help you come up with strategies to help you cope with it. 

Change expectations 

It is important that your engagement with exercise and a physical regiment is based on realistic expectations. 

Finding achievable milestones will enable you to work at an appropriate pace in ways that are relevant to you and your body. 

Let your expectations be based on measurable and attainable goals instead of the expectations set up by people on social media or fitness gurus. 

If you are not able to set realistic goals by yourself, getting a personal trainer who is in sync with your goals and your vision can help. 

Fuel your body

While you exercise, make sure that you are eatinging right and an appropriate amount that is necessary to sustain you through your workouts and your day.

Talking to your trainer and a dietician can be helpful to discuss what you should be eating and how much. Your dietician can also help you plan your meals around foods that do not negatively impact your mood such as sugary and processed foods. 

Instead, choosing to eat what is needed by your body instead of eating too little to get that “ideal” weight is a healthier choice that is in line with self care. 


Giving your mind and body rest from a strict regime of fitness and workout can also be something that your body and mind needs from you. 

Take moments to relax and let go of any strict limits you put on yourself and be mindful of any harsh criticism you make of yourself in case you are having an “off” day at the gym or if you indulge in a treat in the afternoon.

Your fitness and healthy choices are supposed to be born out of love and care for yourself and not rules to live and die by. 

So give yourself that break and rest from always choosing what seems like the “right” choice- taking a rest day from working out can actually do a lot more than going to the gym every single day,


In this article we discussed the few possible reasons why you might be feeling depressed after working out and the issue with you over training. We have also discussed what are some of the things you can do to cope and have a healthier relationship with exercise. 


Frequently asked questions related to “depression after working out”


What should you not do after a workout?

Some of the things you should avoid doing after a workout include:

  • Not drinking water
  • Not eating after workouts or eating too much
  • Forget to stretch. …
  • Not washing up and washing the gym clothes
  • Not giving yourself a mental break from the strict regime of working out 

How does exercise affect your mental health?

Exercise at a healthy level can release endorphins which can make us feel good and as a result,  improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood.

The results of a healthy regimen can also improve self-esteem and improve self-esteem helping people to become more confident about themselves and thus better adjusted. 

Why do I feel bad mentally after working out?

When we work out, our body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that make us feel relaxed and alleviate stress.

However, too much exercise can actually lead to spiked levels of cortisol or the stress hormone which can make us anxious.

What are signs of overtraining?

As much as you want to improve in the gym and in terms of performance, everyone is at risk of over training if time spent is not done mindfully. Some of the warning signs of overtraining that your body is sending out can include:

  • Muscle soreness after a workout, which persists with continued training.
  • Inability to train at a previously manageable level.
  • Delays in recovery from training.
  • Performance plateaus or declines.

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