Fighting Melancholy with Movement
Can exercise impact your mental health? Research has revealed that exercise could play an instrumental role in bettering our mental health. With depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide, experts are recommending the use of exercise to help mitigate the issue.
But why? Interestingly, when you exercise, your brain does too! In fact, an intense workout session is among the most difficult activities your brain can experience.
Exercise and the Brain
Throughout a workout, the brain consumes large amounts of carbohydrates and glucose for energy. What happens to that energy? While research has yet to reveal exactly what the brain uses it for, one thing that experts know is that part of the energy is devoted to the creation of new neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers sent out by nerve cells. These messengers pass along important information to other cells to ensure everything in the body functions as it should. Additionally, neurotransmitters are used to regulate things like mood, breathing, digestion, and more. Dopamine and endorphins are some of the more well-known examples of neurotransmitters.
Furthermore, a study entitled “Exercise Effects of Depression: Possible Neural Mechanisms” set out to examine the effects of exercise on the structure of the brain. Depressed individuals often have reductions in certain parts of the brain such as in the prefrontal cortex or amygdala. Based on the study, researchers concluded that exercise increases these regions of the brain by stimulating the growth of white matter, or fibrous tissue used to store new information, promote movement, and facilitate healthy neural function.
Treating With Exercise
So, what does all this have to do with mental health? Many depressive disorders have been linked to neurotransmitter deficiency and reduced regions of the brain. Knowing that exercise has the power to stimulate neurotransmitter and white matter creation, scientists believe it can play a powerful role in treating these disorders. Exercise, incorporated with more traditional treatments, may provide significant results. If you suffer from depression and you want to start incorporating exercise into your treatment plan, consider talking to your doctor about where to start.
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