How Exercise Impacts Depression

Exercise provides benefits for depression and mental health.

Image By Kaspars Grinvalds

Matter Over Mind

Can exercise impact your mental health? Modern research is revealing that exercise plays an instrumental role in our mental health, especially when it comes to depression. With depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide, experts recommend the use of exercise to help mitigate the issue.

Why, you ask? Interestingly, when you exercise, so does your brain! In fact, an intense workout session is one of the most complex activities your brain experiences.

The Brain-Exercise Connection

Throughout a workout, the brain is consuming large amounts 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 uses the energy for, one thing that experts know for sure is that part of the energy is used to create new neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are essentially chemical messengers sent out by nerve cells. These messengers allow important information to pass from cell to cell. Neurotransmitters are also used to regulate things like mood, breathing, digestion, and more. For example, you may have heard of some of the more well-known neurotransmitters such as dopamine or endorphins.

Moreover, a study entitled “Exercise Effects of Depression: Possible Neural Mechanisms” set out to examine the effects of exercise on the physical structure of the brain. Depressed individuals often times have mass reductions in certain parts of the brain such as in the prefrontal cortex or amygdala. Based on the results of the study, researchers concluded that exercise can in fact increase and restore these regions of the brain by stimulating the growth of white matter. White matter is fatty, fibrous tissue used to store new information, promote movement, and facilitate healthy neural function.

Exercise as Treatment?

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 be a powerful aid in treating these disorders. Exercising, 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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We hope that this information on the benefits of exercise on mental health is useful to you.

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About Cali Naughton

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.

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