Physical Activity During Depression Found To Reduce Symptoms And Increase Brain’s Ability To Change

Physical activity reduces depression and stimulates the brain to change and adapt, according to a recent study.

The research (published in June 2021 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry) was conducted by experts at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany.

Study head and associate professor Dr. Karin Rosenkranz said:

“The results show how important seemingly simple things like physical activity are in treating and preventing illnesses such as depression.”

People suffering from depression tend to close themselves in and stop moving as much as they should. To look into the consequences of this, Dr. Rosenkranz’s team enlisted 41 people for their study, all of whom were going through hospital treatment. Each of them was then assigned to one of two groups, one of which participated in a three-week exercise program.

The program, which was created by a sports science team at the University of Bielefeld, had different components to it. It had fun parts and was not competitive, but required teamwork from those involved.

“This specifically promoted motivation and social togetherness while breaking down a fear of challenges and negative experiences with physical activity—such as school PE lessons,” Dr. Rosenkranz explained.

Meanwhile, the other group took part in a program that didn’t involve physical activity.

The team looked into the severity of the participants’ depressive symptoms, such as a loss of drive and interest, lack of motivation and negative feelings, before and after the program.

Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, was also taken into account.

“The ability to change is important for all of the brain’s learning and adaptation processes,” Dr. Rosenkranz explained.

Symptoms went down and the ability to change increased

It is known that the brain’s ability to change is lower in those suffering from depression.

After the program of physical activity came to an end, this ability to change went up to levels of healthy non-depressed people.

Symptoms of depression also decreased in the group.

Meanwhile, these changes were not so pronounced in those who didn’t take part in physical activity.

Although physical activity affected the symptoms and the brain’s ability to change, the researchers were not able to pinpoint to what extent the changes are causally linked.

“It is known that physical activity does the brain good, as it, for instance, promotes the formation of neuron connections.This could certainly also play a role here,” the doctor added.

What are your thoughts on these findings? Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments and please share this article if you’ve enjoyed it.

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