Every morning, Carol Reach is out walking with her dog, Mishka. But she does not just do it to stay in shape.
"I've had major depression on and off for most of my life," she said.
She tried antidepressants, but they did not work, so she enrolled in a study at Duke, which used exercise to treat depression.
"It changed my life essentially," she said.
Reach said exercise gives her a natural high. Researchers believe exercise may produce chemicals in the body that ease depression. People may also get an emotional boost from feeling that they are in control.
Another study is now underway at Duke to try and pinpoint the exact reason. That discovery could make exercise a more accepted treatment for some forms of depression.
For Reach, the reason does not matter. All she knows is that she feels better than she has in years.
"I know that the benefits are great enough that it gives me the motivation, and the dog helps as well," she said.
Researchers also said exercise improves memory and so-called executive functions, which include planning, organization and the ability to mentally juggle different tasks at the same time.
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