Monday, October 02, 2000

Natural high

Feeling depressed? Take a hike.

That’s the advice suggested by recent study at Duke University Medical Center, where researchers compared the benefits of exercise and the medication Zoloft on major depression. Turns out those who walked briskly for a half-hour a day felt about as much better as those who just took the drugs. After four months, 60 percent of the exercisers saw their symptoms lifted, as opposed to 66 percent of the Zoloft users. Six months after that, the fitness freaks still felt better, while those on the drug were more likely to have suffered a relapse.

Now personally, I find this surprising, because having to exercise would just depress me more. But apparently, if you’re already depressed, working out gives you a lift. The researchers aren’t sure why. Maybe it’s endorphins. Maybe it’s getting out with a group of people (since the study exercisers exercised together). Maybe it’s the sense of control subjects felt when they relieved their symptoms through hard work instead of drugs. One thing’s for sure, though: It’s bad news for whoever’s trying to market Zoloft. If you’re making an antidepressant, it should sure as heck work better than half an hour of jogging. I know how I’d feel after half an hour of jogging, and I sure wouldn’t take a pill that made me feel like that.

If this research gets much publicity, you can count on some subtle changes in ads for antidepressants. They’ll start to mention that their little pill makes you feel better than a stationary bike. What I’d choose is a pill that makes you feel like you do when you’re laying on your bed reading magazines and eating chocolate. That’s what would cheer me up. But inevitably, you’ll also see mention of these findings in ads for exercise equipment. Chuck Norris will mention that his exercise gizmo flattens abs, fattens pecs, and relieves depression 25% better than competing gizmos.

Now there’s a depressing thought.

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