By Ken Reed

The mental health benefits of exercise have been lauded for quite a while now. Regular exercisers can attest to the stress-and-anxiety-reducing benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

A recent study from Germany, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, highlights how exercise helps the depressed brain. The study adds to the growing mound of research touting the mental health benefits of regular exercise.

The German research out of Ruhr-Universitat Bochum’s Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy showed a three-week physical activity intervention supports the remission of major depressive disorders (MDD). The exercise program also restored neuroplasticity in the subjects’ brains.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to adapt or change over time, by creating new neurons and building new networks.

Participants undergoing treatment for depression were divided into two groups – exercisers and non-exercisers. The exercisers were given a three-week physical activity program.

The exercise group had much lower scores than the non-exercise group on measures such as negative feelings, pessimism, hopelessness, a loss of passion and desire, and lack of motivation and drive.

“It is known that physical activity does the brain good, as it, for instance, promotes the formation of neuron connections,” said Karin Rosenkranz, the study’s senior author.

The study’s authors concluded by saying:

“[W]e showed that a physical activity (PA) intervention supports the remission of clinical symptoms and normalizes deficient LTP-induced neuroplasticity in MDD and that these two observations are highly correlated.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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