How sport and exercise alleviate suffering; Sport is not only good for the body, but also helps with depression. A US study proves that exercise can support the treatment of depression.
Researchers led by Ronald Duman from Yale University in New Haven found in studies on mice and rats that the brain produces the natural antidepressant called VGF in response to physical activity.
Previous studies had already shown that exercise has a positive effect on the brain. For example, it increases the ability to learn, helps older people to control their behavior and protects the brain cells from damage.
In addition, regular exercise, similar to regular meditation, has a positive effect on the mood, even in people with mood swings or the increasingly common winter depression.
So far, however, it was unclear why. To investigate this, Duman and his colleagues tested two groups of mice. While some of the rodents were kept in a normal cage, the others had to be active in the running wheel every night.
The result: after seven days, there was a measurable increase in the activity of 33 genes in the hippocampus of the athletic animals. This brain region belongs to the limbic system and is typically altered in people with depression.
Gene with a motivating factor
Further experiments showed that the VGF gene in particular and the protein produced according to its blueprint seemed to play a key role in the animals.
When VGF was artificially administered to the unfit mice, they showed increased drive and were less easily demotivated, just like the fit mice.
On the other hand, if the researchers blocked the VGF gene, the opposite effect occurred, and sport no longer had a positive effect either. The stimulating effect of physical activity is thus mediated via VGF.
In the brain, its formation is part of a whole chain of reactions, at the end of which there is an improved metabolism and greater flexibility of the nerve cells. The scientists recommend that VGF should therefore be the focus of attention when developing new antidepressants.
Running in Winter Helps with Depression
“In winter we are no longer in our biological rhythm,” says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Bartmann from the Würzburg University of Applied Sciences, specialist in running therapy. “Instinctively, we’d rather get up when it’s light and go to bed when it’s dark.”
Hormonal changes caused by a lack of light also cause problems for us. If we are denied the sun for a longer period of time, fewer happiness messengers are released in the body and the sleep hormone melatonin is broken down more slowly.
This often makes many feel tired and irritable. Even if the sun doesn’t shine all that often during the cold months, you still catch a lot more daylight when running in winter than you would curl up on the couch – an important step in helping with depression!
Prevent bad mood through exercise
This is confirmed by Dr. James Blumenthal’s investigations at Duke University of Durham, USA. He achieved comparable relief from depression in his patients by running regularly in the winter as with conventional prescription antidepressants – with no side effects!
Running in winter therefore has a positive effect on the hormonal balance and promotes the production of endorphin and serotonin. People who are tired of winter often lack these messenger substances. Running in winter is also a good way to prevent yourself from getting in a bad mood in the first place.