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Can Intense Exercise Help with Depression?

February 29th, 2016

A new study from the University of California Davis Health System that involved imaging showed that intense exercise could help fight depression and promote overall better mental health. What researchers found was that two of the critical neurotransmitters that are associated with depression, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, are boosted by intense exercise and that this can help fight depression. These neurotransmitters are important for good mental health and individuals with depression are usually deficient in these compounds in the brain. The study has been published in the scientific publication The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers believe that intense exercise could be an important component of treatment for those who suffer from depression or other psychiatric disorders that have been associated with neurotransmitter deficiencies in the brain.

The study in intense exercise and depression showed that a deficiency in neurotransmitters which drive communications between different brain cells will have an impact on mental, physical, and emotional health. According to Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California Davis Health System professor and lead study author Dr. Richard Maddock “Major depressive disorder is often characterized by depleted glutamate and GABA, which return to normal when mental health is restored. Our study shows that exercise activates the metabolic pathway that replenishes these neurotransmitters.” Maddock went on to say “From a metabolic standpoint, vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess, but nobody knows what happens with all that energy. Apparently, one of the things it’s doing is making more neurotransmitters.”

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