Running from the Blues
Can exercise impact your mental health? With depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide, research suggests that the use of exercise may significantly help mitigate the issue.
You have probably experienced improved mental function and clarity after exercise, but why? Interestingly, when you exercise, your does brain too! In fact, an intense workout session is among the most vigorous activities your brain can experience.
Your Brain on Exercise
Throughout a workout, the brain is consuming a large number of carbohydrates and glucose for energy. What is the brain doing with all that energy? While research has yet to reveal exactly what the brain is using it for, one thing that experts know is that part of the energy is put towards creating new neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers sent out by nerve cells and are essential for the performance of the nervous system. They pass along information and instructions to other cells and regulate bodily functions like mood, breathing, digestion, and more. Some of the more well-known neurotransmitters are dopamine and endorphins.
Additionally, a study entitled “Exercise Effects of Depression: Possible Neural Mechanisms” set out to examine the specific effects of exercise on the brain’s structure. Depressed individuals often have material reductions in certain parts of the brain such as in the prefrontal cortex or amygdala. Based on the review, researchers concluded that exercise increases activity in the brain by stimulating the growth of white matter, fibrous tissue used to store new information, promote movement, and facilitate healthy neural function.
Mental Health Connection
So, what does all this have to do with mental health, you ask? 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’re interested in incorporating exercise into your treatment plan, consider talking to your doctor about where to start to avoid injury and burnout.
We hope that this information on the effects of exercise on mental health is useful to you.
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Cali Naughton graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. She joined the marketing team at Empower Brokerage in the spring of 2021 as a marketing specialist and the department photographer.