Monday, December 5, 2016

Exercise Can Improve Depression, Treat Chronic Illness

We've been hearing for years that exercise is good not only for the body but the mind as well, and now there's more proof than ever.

Male and female bike riders
By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Pinckney Island bicycling). Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Exercise Can Lessen Depression Symptoms...

A recent New York Times article notes that three studies have shown that exercise can not only improve symptoms in people with depression, but may actually keep people from becoming depressed to begin with. The studies combine research that altogether involves more than a million subjects.
The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote.
What is it about exercise that improves one's mood? That's long been a matter of debate, but the article may finally provide some answers. A review in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews looks at studies that involved drawing blood from people with major depression before and after exercising, and as the Times article notes,
The samples on the whole indicated that exercise significantly reduced various markers of inflammation and increased levels of a number of different hormones and other biochemicals that are thought to contribute to brain health.
The researchers caution, however, that larger and longer-lasting studies need to be done to draw solid conclusions about the depression-fighting effects that exercise can have on the brain. 

...And Improve Chronic Illness

What about physical illness, especially the chronic variety? A recent Consumer Reports article (reprinted in the Washington Post) points to studies showing that exercise can offer disease-fighting benefits comparable to drugs or surgery, without the side effects. Citing a Canadian Medical Association Journal study, the article spells out how to get started with obtaining the disease-fighting benefits of exercise—safely—for several conditions including:
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • type 2 diabetes
  • osteoarthritis
What if you're currently too sick to exercise? The article addresses that, too, with tips on when it's OK or not OK to work out.

Running or Jogging Can Counteract Alcohol Damage to the Brain

It's well known that excessive drinking can cause damage to the brain (and yes, it apparently really can kill brain cells). But another recent New York Times article suggests that jogging or running, or other forms of aerobic exercise, can minimize the damage that alcohol does. It points to studies presented at a Society for Neuroscience meeting last month revealing that the brains of rats that were given alcohol and then were made to run showed markedly different effects than their brethren who didn't exercise.

Rats who didn't exercise had fewer neurons (nerve cells) in their brains, & their neurons showed damage to the mitochondria (the energy-producing parts of the cell). The rats who ran showed less neuron loss, and less mitochondrial damage.

As for how to fit in more exercise into your schedule of holiday parties, well, that's up to you.