The Lived Experience of Exercise in Persons with Depression: A Journey to Finding a Sense of Contentment

Clair Hebron, Jack Juniper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Depression is often part of the embodied experience of persons living with pain and other health conditions. In addition to other benefits, exercise has been recognised to reduce depressive symptoms. Physiotherapists help persons to develop multidimensional understanding including an understanding of how exercise can help manage symptoms, including how they can individualise exercise to them. Thus, physiotherapists need insights into how exercise is experienced and meaningfully related to depression

Purpose: This study aimed to explore the lived experience of exercise in persons with depression.

Methods: In this interpretive (hermeneutic) phenomenological study, participants with depression were purposively recruited and data collected via semi-structured interviews. Hermeneutic analysis was used alongside the crafting of hermeneutic stories to reveal the meaning of exercise for these participants.

Findings: Participants conveyed their experience of exercise as a journey to finding a sense of contentment. Two master themes: Finding the exercise for me and the experienced importance of the environment illuminated participants’ journey to finding a sense of contentment through exercise. Two subthemes changing sense of self and building resilience further described participants’ experience

Conclusion: Physiotherapists may reflect on these individual exercise stories and share these insights with persons receiving their care to explore if exercise may help them to find a sense of contentment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2022


  • exercise
  • physical activity
  • depression
  • phenomenology
  • experience


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