Patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) were treated for 1 week either with a daily 1-h morning walk outdoors (natural light) or low-dose artificial light (0.5 h@2800 lux). The latter treatment (given under double-blind conditions) can be considered mainly placebo and did not improve any of the depression self-ratings, whereas natural light exposure improved all self-ratings. According to the Hamilton depression score, 25% remitted after low-dose artificial light and 50% after the walk. Sleep duration or timing were not crucial for the therapeutic response. The morning walk phase-advanced the onset and/or offset of salivary melatonin secretion, but individual clinical improvement could not be correlated with specific phase-shifts. Morning cortisol was decreased. Low-dose artificial light did not modify melatonin or cortisol patterns. This is the first study to provide evidence for the use of outdoor light exposure as a potential alternative or adjuvant to conventional artificial light therapy in SAD.