Exercise is generally known to be good for us, but did you know that it can change your brain neurochemistry and change your mood?  Multiple studies have shown that exercise causes increase in GABA in the hippocampus and increases stress tolerance.  (GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter on the nervous system, i.e. calms over excitable nerves.)

Hippocrates said: “If you’re in a bad mood go for a walk, if you’re still in a bad mood go for another walk.”  This is seen in some studies in elementary schools where they measured suspensions.

In Kansas City Woodland Elementary school there were 451 out-of-school suspensions in the fall of 2005; that number was reduced by 63% in the spring to only 165 out-of-school suspensions after an exercise program was introduced in the school.  Another elementary school showed increased focus, self control, and improved examination scores.

Exercise can Help you Control and Organize Your Life

The frontal cortex plays a major role in setting up your good mood.  Planning, organization, consequence evaluation, learning from mistakes, maintaining focus, and the ability to initiate or delay a response all happen in the frontal cortex.  Dysfunction in this area affects the organization and control of behavior.  Exercise helps stimulate growth factors in the frontal cortex.

Fitness causes an increase in size of hippocampus, which is essential for memory and memory integration. The more fit a person is the larger cortical volumes they have and will show better Cortical Connections.
*Ahlskog JE, Geda YE, Graff-Radford NR, Petersen RC. Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 Sep;86(9):876-84.

Michael Otto, Ph.D says research shows that there is a mood enhancement effect after as little as 5min. of exercise and the effects are not only in the short term.

Depression and Exercise

Blumenthal and his colleagues found that exercise was comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder. (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).  Blumenthal followed up with the patients one year later and found people who regularly exercised had lower depression scores. (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse,” he says.

Depression and Diabetes Connected

People with diabetes are more likely to develop depression, and people with depression are also more likely to develop diabetes. Mary de Groot, PhD, psychologist in the Department of Medicine at Indiana University says, “Rates of clinically significant depressive symptoms and diagnoses of major depressive disorder are higher among adults with diabetes than in the general population”. She also suggests that depression is often harder to treat and more likely to recur in a diabetic population. “A number of studies show people with both disorders are at greater risk for mortality than are people with either disorder alone,” she says.
Mary de Groot’s team then did a pilot study that treated diabetics with both exercise and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and found improvement in diabetes and mood.

The Right Mix

In our practice the right balance is to use exercise, diet, and some mind/body practice to change mood.  We have seen this change the lives of our patients over and over again.  There are many types of exercise, diet, and mind/body therapies and it can seem overwhelming to figure out which one is best suited for you. Explore to find what works best for you. If you think you might benefit from some direction we can streamline the process for you and help you to find the individual right mix.