Billions of dollars are spent on antidepressant drugs every year, but psychologist Jasper Smits is testing a new kind of treatment: Good old-fashioned exercise. Past studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as certain prescription medications in improving mood and depressions, but Smits told TIME Magazine that he’s been surprised at how little research is being done on depression and exercise.
Though past studies indicate that exercise could be as effective as anti-depressants, many of the studies are limited and don’t show enough consistent data to be reliable. A 1999 Duke University study in showed that depressed adults who participated in an aerobic-exercise plan improved as much as those treated with sertraline (the drug marketed as Zoloft until 2006), and molecular biologists and neurologists believe that exercise may alter brain chemistry in the same way that antidepressants do.
Neuroscientist Philip Holmes at the University of Georgia has conducted studies showing that exercise alters the brain’s ability to handle stress. Over time, consistent exercise alters certain genes that control neuropeptide production, in turn changing the brain’s ability to handle stress. Holmes told TIME, “It occurs to us that exercise is the more normal or natural condition, and that being sedentary is really the abnormal situation.”
via TIME Magazine