Exercise may fight depression

 At his research clinic in Dallas, psychologist Jasper Smits is working on an unorthodox treatment for anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. It is not yet widely accepted, but his treatment is free and has no side effects, according to a story in Time Magazine.

Compare that with antidepressant drugs, which cost Americans $10 billion each year and have many common side effects: sleep disturbances, nausea, tremors, changes in body weight.

This intriguing new treatment? Exercise.

That physical activity is crucial to good health — both mental and physical — is nothing new. As early as the 1970s and ’80s, observational studies showed that Americans who exercised were not only less likely to be depressed than those who did not but also less likely to become depressed in the future.

In 1999, Duke University researchers demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial that depressed adults who participated in an aerobic-exercise plan improved as much as those treated with sertraline, the drug that, marketed as Zoloft, was earning Pfizer more than $3 billion annually before its patent expired in 2006.

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