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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Put down the pills, pick up the runners

John Masterson

Published 16/11/2015 | 02:30

Exercise is of considerable benefit for people with mild to moderate depression.
Exercise is of considerable benefit for people with mild to moderate depression.

Wouldn't it be marvellous if there was a magic bullet for mental health? And I don't mean prescription anti-depressants. In 1998, over 11 million Americans took anti-depressants at some stage during the year. By 2010, this had more than doubled to over 23 million. That is a lot of people who are going about their day-to-day business with a powerful legal chemical coursing through their veins.

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What happens across the pond, we soon copy. One Irish report found that the State spent €40m on such prescriptions to 330,000 patients in 2012. Doctors estimate that between one in 10 and one in five people are using anti-depressants. Aware estimates that one in 10 of us will suffer depression during our lifetime.

That is a lot of depression and if there is no magic bullet, there is one thing that is not too far from it. Exercise. Now I know that top-class athletes who exercise for a living are not immune to depression. Set that aside for a minute and think about the general population. Most of us do not exercise enough.

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