Local News

Duke Studies Benefits Of Exercise In Treating Depression

Posted November 22, 2004 2:23 a.m. EST

— If you are feeling down, exercise might be the right prescription.

A Duke study shows benefits for clinically depressed patients in a supervised exercise program. Researchers now want to know if a workout at home alone is just as good.

Gail Taliaferro hoped a supervised exercise program would lift her out of a pit of despair.

"I was depressed. I had gone through a series of life-altering situations, had a couple of dear friends pass away," she said.

Add to that a stressful job change and Taliaferro say she felt herself "spiraling downward."

Regular exercise was not a part of her life.

So Taliaferro enrolled in a Duke study where instead of taking anti-depressants, she showed up for an exercise program three days a week for four months.

"It actually made me feel better to start my day," she said.

Taliaferro was not alone. At the end of the study, 60 to 70 percent of patients in the group with exercise alone were no longer depressed. Researchers could not say for sure if it was just the exercise or the supportive environment of a supervised program.

"So in our new study, now we're looking at individual home-based exercise as well as group-based supervised exercise," said Dr. James Blumenthal, a Duke psychologist.

Gail says the accountability of group exercise helped get her started. But she says she gets the same boost of well being alone, out on a track or in her neighborhood.

"Exercise should be a part of your way of life," Taliaferro said.

Researchers hope it is a way to treat depression.

"It may be that instead of reaching for a prescription for medication, a physician might prefer a prescription for exercise," Blumenthal said.

If you are interested in being part of the Duke study on the effect of home-based exercise on depression, call (919) 681-2612.