Exercise can be as effective a treatment for mental illness as talk therapy or medication.

Despite that, the reception in Upplands Väsby is one of the few clinics in the country that offers free training at a gym that is run in-house.

Susanne Wennberg has struggled with recurrent depression for most of her life.

Six years ago, she got the chance to start training at the then newly opened reception.

Today, she trains almost five days a week and follows a program with 30 different exercises.

- I feel much better in both body and soul, she says.

Difficult to take the step

Operations manager Vladimir Savecs describes how many of the patients who come to the clinic have never exercised before.

- Doctors are usually good at drawing attention to the importance of exercise, but often it is not enough to take the step to actually start exercising, he says.

The very fact that the gym belongs to a psychiatric clinic and that everyone who works out there struggles with similar problems has been a key factor for Susanne.

- That makes it safe for me.

I'm no different than anyone else here and that's great.

Eva Andersson is a doctor and lecturer at the GIH School of Gymnastics and Sports and has spent many years compiling international research on sports and health.

According to her, combined international studies show that physical activity alone is as effective a treatment as talk therapy alone, or tablet therapy alone, for mild to moderate depression.

More follow up

She agrees that it can be difficult for patients suffering from depression to actually start exercising.

- It is important that society creates organizational conditions, she says.

Even today, healthcare prescribes exercise as a prescription, but more is needed, says Andersson.

- You need to follow up how much you have trained.

Follow-up plays a very important role and the evidence also shows that leader-led training produces great results.

More municipalities would have to do like Upplands Väsby, she says.