Exercise Can Combat Depression in Women

A wealth of recent research has shown that exercise can boost mood. People who are physically active are more likely to report that they feel happy than sedentary people. A few studieshave shown that exercise can be almost as effective as antidepressants for improving mood. A new study has found that even a single session of exercise can be helpful for women with serious depression.

The Science

Science has yet to fully explain how physical activity affects psychological health. Some scientists believe that exercise triggers the release of various proteins and other biochemical substances into our bloodstream. Once these substances make it to the brain, it is thought that they may jump-start neural processes that affect our emotions. However, which substances affect mental health has yet to be determined.

A new study out of Iowa State University aims to answer that question. The focus of the study is on endocannabinoids, which are self-produced psychoactive substances that are similar to cannabis and marijuana. Endocannabinoids bind to receptors in our brains and help improve calm feelings and elevate mood.

The Study

As part of the study, researchers had women with major depression complete workouts on stationary bicycles. During most of the sessions, the women were told how intensely they should pedal. During one of the sessions, they were allowed to pedal at their own pace. Before each session, women gave blood and completed questionnaires about their emotional state. After each session, the women gave blood again and later repeated the questionnaire. The study found that any amount of exercise improved moods. It also found that improvement was more substantial when the women were given instruction on how intensely to pedal compared to when they pedaled at their own pace.

Researchers used the data from this study to perform another studyregarding the level of endocannabinoids. The study found that, while women reported elevated moods regardless of how intensely they pedaled, there was only an increase in endocannabinoid levels when women pedaled moderately with instruction. This suggests that being coached or supervised during a workout can lead to different impacts on our minds. The reason for this correlation requires further research. All researchers agree, however, that it is clear that exercise at any intensity improves the mood.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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