Exercise is a great treatment for many cases of depression

(CNN) – Millions of Americans suffer from depression – and many have found relief from the symptoms by using antidepressant medications.

CNN talked to an expert who says many cases of depression can be treated effectively with, for example, a pair of running shoes.

Dr. Jane Erb is director of the depression center at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She says researchers are learning more about the power of exercise in treating depression – a therapy that, in some cases, can even take the place of antidepressant drugs.

“It’s really just been over the last couple of decades that here’s been more focused sort of clinically validated trials that have established that there truly are appreciable effects that go well beyond placebo.”

It’s well known that exercise causes the release of chemicals in the brain which bring about feelings of euphoria. The so-called runner’s high. But there may be other physiological things happening as well. A recent study, published in the journal “Cell,” found that mice, specially bred to contain high levels of a chemical released during exercise, seemed resistant to depression brought about by stress. The important thing, Doctor Erb says – even for those with major depression – is to try to keep moving.

“Anything one can do to try and counter the forces of depression, when the depression is just getting bigger – and particularly if medications aren’t working – the more it can kind of help keep reins on that vicious circle.”

Copyright 2015 CNN

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