Doctors are increasingly prescribing exercise for people with depression, mental health campaigners have found.
In a survey of 200 English GPs, the Mental Health Foundation found 22% suggest exercise to help people with milder forms of the condition. This compares with just 5% in a similar survey three years ago.
The foundation said it was important that doctors did not just prescribe antidepressants for patients, and looked for other options.
Research has shown that exercise can help people with mild forms of depression by improving self-esteem - through better body image or achieving goals, and by relieving feelings of isolation which can fuel their depression.
It also releases feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins. Celia Richardson, campaigns director for the Mental Health Foundation, said: "It can help people physically, socially and biologically.
"They often meet others who have been in the same situation as them, but are now further down the line and feeling better."
The survey found there is now a wider belief by GPs that exercise therapy can be beneficial.
Three years ago, 41% thought it was "effective or very effective", rising to 61% now.
But half of the GPs questioned did not have access to an exercise referral scheme. Two thirds of these doctors said they wished they had.
More patients are also interested in how exercise can help them - one in six GPs say they have noticed an increase in the number of people asking whether exercise could help them.
Source - BBC