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CrossFit helps Utah man rise from depression

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Posted at 9:09 PM, May 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-03 01:28:32-04

RIVERTON, Utah - A Utah man is crediting a local CrossFit gym with saving his life after years of struggling with depression.

On June 27, 2004, Riverton resident Bob Brown was riding his motorcycle near Emigration Canyon when he was hit by a car. Two weeks later, he woke from a coma, known know where he was, where he'd been and what lay ahead.

"I don't actually have memory of it but I've had it recreated for me, I've been back up there, I've seen it, so I'm pretty confident I know what happened," Brown said.

Suddenly the lifelong athlete couldn't do things that made him happy, and he fell into a deep depression.

"Disbelief, rage, sadness, depression, just everything. I was, like, 'This can't be happening. I'm going to wake up out of this dream.' It was crazy," he said.

Brown didn't think antidepressants were right for him, so he and his wife spent several years trying to find something to bring meaning back to his life.

"You know you need to have some kind of passion in your life, to give you reason to wake up. I don't care what the passion is. Maybe it's your children or your work or a sport or cross stitching it's a reason to wake up and I didn't have that and I was looking for it but none of them filled the void until CrossFit," Brown said.

After many failed attempts, an online deal for a local CrossFit gym became Brown's perfect prescription.

"I was there one day. Fell in love with it, it was totally different from anything I'd ever done before," Brown said. "It's very exciting. It makes working out more fun. It develops into being part of your life which then of course changes your life."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in every ten Americans suffer from depression, and more doctors are turning to exercise instead of pills to treat psychological disorders.

Multiple studies have found that Utahns are among the most depressed populations in the country, and one of the top consumers of antidepressants.

"We've become the Prozac generation and so forth but I think people are beginning to realize medicine doesn't take care of everything and the problems in life that maybe cause the depression in the first place are still there," said Dr. Gail Hilton, manager of crisis services for Intermountain Medical Center.

Hilton says that depression is a disease just like diabetes, but it's more complicated to treat because the cure comes in many forms and is different from patient to patient.

"Starting at a level not jumping to medication in the beginning is a good way to go. Try other avenues now. If you're not getting better, you should see a psychiatrist or a primary physician," Hilton said.

Hilton is one of many physicians who support exercise as a way to fight depression. They cite the boost of endorphins that come from physical activity as one reason it's successful.

"We absolutely know those endorphins do kick in and that can help with depression. But also it gives you a sense of control. One of the things people feel when they're depressed they're out of control with their life, what they are doing or who they are and an exercise program," Hilton said. "Something formal like that can give you back a sense of control. So it's a very very good way of dealing with depression."

Hilton says that because no two people are the same in terms of brain chemistry, treatment for medical illness, whether it's medication, exercise or something else, can result in a number of outcomes. Anyone suffering from depression should first consult a physician.