Some might call me an exercise freak, but I tell people I work out for my mental health as well as my physical health. Now I can tell them science proves my point. If you are under a lot of stress at home or work, exercise might work the same way for you too!
A new study shows that physical activity helps the brain cope with stress. Scientists have known that exercise reduces anxiety but they couldn’t figure out why. Now they know that exercise promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain.
These young neurons are typically more “excitable,” which scientists say should result in more stress, not less. But this new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that when mice that exercised regularly were presented with a stressful event, their brains got an extra dose of neurons that “shut off” excitement in the part of the brain proven to regulate anxiety.
The senior author of the study, Elizabeth Gould of Princeton University, said, "Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behavior gives potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders."
By training our muscles, we are also training our brain to rise to the challenges of the day. “It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment," Gould said.
So if you have a lot of stress in your life, get moving and make exercise part of your regular routine. You’ll be doing your body and your mind a lot of good.
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