House Call: Ex­er­cise The new feel-good brain food

Ex­er­cise is the new feel-good brain food

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Zachary Levine Dr. Zachary Levine is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the fac­ulty of medicine at McGill Univer­sity Health Cen­tre and med­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for AM740 (a ZoomerMe­dia prop­erty).

THERE’S IN­CREAS­ING sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that ex­er­cise is not only good for our phys­i­cal health but also our men­tal health. How does it work? Of course, we know that ex­er­cise helps pro­tect against heart dis­ease and di­a­betes, im­proves sleep and low­ers blood pres­sure. But high­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise is also as­so­ci­ated with the re­lease of chem­i­cals called en­dor­phins, which make us feel well. There is also ev­i­dence that cer­tain brain chem­i­cals as­so­ci­ated with de­pres­sion when they are at low lev­els in­crease with ex­er­cise (sero­tonin, dopamine and nor­ep­i­neph­rine – the very chem­i­cals that an­tide­pres­sant med­i­ca­tions act upon). But you don’t need to be a su­per­star ath­lete. Over time, low-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise spurs the growth of new nerve cell con­nec­tions in the brain, which is also con- nected to that feel-good feel­ing.

In ad­di­tion, there is so­cial ben­e­fit of get­ting out and about and in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers. There are sev­eral other pos­si­ble ways that ex­er­cise makes us feel bet­ter, in­clud­ing dis­tract­ing us from triv­ial wor­ries and by giv­ing peo­ple a sense of ef­fec­tive­ness and con­fi­dence.

Here, a roundup of the lat­est sci­en­tific proof of the pos­i­tiv­ity of ex­er­cise that will mo­ti­vate you to get mov­ing – and be hap­pier. 1 It only takes an hour A re­cent study showed that one hour of ex­er­cise each week may pro­tect against de­pres­sion, re­gard­less of in­ten­sity, and that yoga can sig­nif­i­cantly lower symp­toms of the con­di­tion. Peo­ple who re­ported never ex­er­cis­ing had a 44 per cent in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing de­pres­sion com­pared with those who worked out one to two hours a week. Re­searchers re­ported that just one hour of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity per week could have pre­vented 12 per cent of de­pres­sion di­ag­noses over the study pe­riod. 2 Walk­ing for 20 to 40 min­utes three times a week for six weeks de­creased over­all symp­toms of de­pres­sion in mod­er­ately de­pressed older adults more ef­fec­tively than a so­cial sup­port group or no treat­ment. An­other study showed that 30 min­utes of walk­ing on a tread­mill for 10 days in a row sig­nif­i­cantly de­creased de­pres­sion symp­toms. 3 Cycling 30 min­utes a day four times a week showed a clear de­crease in de­pres­sion.

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