Pedometers Used in Treatment of People with Depression

A recent article explains how a leading medical facility in Minnesota, Health Partners Medical Group (HPMG), is encouraging clients with depression to walk their way toward recovery. Studies have shown that even moderate exercise can provide relief for those experiencing symptoms of depression. Nearly 20 million people suffer with depression in the United States, and most wait almost ten years before seeking any treatment. The symptoms of depression can cause a person to lose productivity and experience a significant decrease in the quality of their life. Exercise such as walking affects the neurotransmitters that are stimulated with medications for both anxiety and depression. Experts support exercise as an effective component to a comprehensive treatment regimen that may incorporate medication and therapy as well.

“Health Partners believes so strongly that exercise will help our patients who have depression that our doctors are prescribing pedometers to anyone screened for depression,” said president and CEO of Health Partners, Mary K. Brainerd. Most clients strive for a minimum of half an hour a day of exercise, at least three days a week. Although this can seem daunting to someone suffering with depression, the pedometer tracks any physical activity, and even minimal amounts of exercise can be recognized as achievements.

Regional assistant medical director of HPMG, Art Wineman, adds, “The pedometer program is not meant to replace medication or therapy that may be beneficial to the patient. But it can be an effective tool in our toolkit for patients. Exercise works because it increases the feel-good chemicals in your brain. It also improves energy, relieves anxiety and helps sleep.” As clients begin to feel the accomplishment of small successes, such as walking up stairs or walking short distances, they will be encouraged to engage in more strenuous exercise which can lead to improved mood. Clinicians at HPMG hope that this program will motivate other mental health professionals to recognize and encourage the use of physical exercise as part of an overall treatment protocol for depression and anxiety.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Margaret S.

    Margaret S.

    May 25th, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    I see what they’re doing!It’s making a depressed person face his little achievements and make him feel better about himself.An excellent idea that not only helps the depression but is also good for the patient’s physical health.Very innovative indeed.

  • Hester K.

    Hester K.

    May 25th, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    I hope the pedometer will also record when you clock up the number of steps you’re supposed to do.

    The average person walks about a mile and a half daily just going about their normal business, even if they never leave the house. All they would have to do is attach it to their waistband as soon as they got up in the morning to get a headstart on the prescribed distance.

    It’s not a foolproof plan to combat depression but a sensible one. Nor is it new. Depression sufferers have been advised to get exercise for ages.

  • Kirsty Bonet

    Kirsty Bonet

    June 2nd, 2011 at 3:56 AM

    There have been studies that relate exercise with feeling better about yourself, true. Patients are likely to listen to a doctor and take his advice regardless of what their thoughts on the subject are.

    Smart patients that is. That’s why you see a doctor: he’s smarter than the average bear. :)

  • sean mcdonald

    sean mcdonald

    June 3rd, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    If the depression is coming from body image, which is common, this is actually a really good idea. That and the general well-being that comes from accomplishing exercise could well be enough to lift a man out of the depressed zone.

    When I feel my muscles after working out it really does improve my mood.

  • Lawrence Alberts

    Lawrence Alberts

    June 13th, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    Most depressed individuals could benefit from a good run and a good night’s sleep if they want to help themselves. Working overtime and being up all night worrying certainly isn’t helping to make them better. They are just adding to the problem and making it much worse. Simple suggestions aren’t always unhelpful.

  • daisyowens


    June 16th, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    @Lawrence–I feel you’re kinda right, but I have to disagree on the “most” part. It would only work for some, and if they have deep-seated problems they have yet to resolve, a good night’s sleep isn’t going to make them simply vanish.

    Taking time through therapy to resolve the problems, with or without meds, while keeping your mood up by eating well and exercising, is a more reliable combination.

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