Clinical depression has been a part of Elisa Fraley’s life for as long as she can remember.
“It’s been something that I’ve battled probably since my 20’s,” Fraley said.
These days she takes medication.
“I’ve been taking it for a long time and it helps,” she said.
She also does something she can’t get out of a bottle: exercise.
“Ever since college I’ve been working out and I just know that it does help me.”
A series of studies out of duke university consistantly found exercise helps a lot of people in elisa’s shoes. The research started with a study of more than 150 adults with mild or moderate depression. They were separated into three groups.
Group 1 took the antidepressant drug, sertraline, which is in zoloft and lustral.
Group 2 took the antidepressant and exercised three times a week for 45 minutes.
Group 3 did exercise only.
The treatment lasted for 4 months. They found treating depression with exercise was just as effective as medication. It was basically a three-way tie.
They followed up six months later and found the exercise only group did overwhelmingly better – with much fewer patients relapsing.
Psychologist Laura Vernon says exercise can be just as good for your brain as it is for your body.
“Your body does all sorts of things,” said Vernon. “It’s releasing endorphins that we all know about the sort of feel good hormones that will get you through and give you energy, but you’re also in some ways changing your body chemistry moving forward.”
The studies concluded that it’s not that medication doesn’t work, it does. It’s that exercise works just as well, and it has the added bonus of creating a positive new identity.