Physical Activity Jolts Brain Into Action In The Event Of Depression

The brain benefits from exercise; for instance, it encourages change and adaptability.

A study at the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), Ostwestfalen-Lippe campus, confirms the twofold positive effect of physical activity in depression: physical activity not only lessens depressed symptoms. Additionally, it improves the brain's adaptability, which is important for the processes of learning and adaptation.

Dr. Karin Rosenkranz, associate professor and the study's leader, stated the following: "The results show how important seemingly simple things like physical activity are in treating and preventing illnesses such as depression.”

Depression frequently causes people to withdraw and stop moving around. Karin Rosenkranz's working group recruited 41 patients who were receiving medical care at the hospital for the study to examine the impact of physical activity. Each of the individuals was put in one of two groups, one of which underwent a three-week fitness regimen. The program, which was created by the University of Bielefeld's sports science team under the direction of Professor Thomas Schack, was engaging, and fun, and did not take the form of a test or competition, but rather demanded teamwork from the participants. According to Karin Rosenkranz, "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.”

Both before and after the training, the study team measured the intensity of depression symptoms such as loss of interest, motivation, and drive, as well as negative sentiments. Neuroplasticity—the brain's capacity for change—was also quantified. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can help determine it externally. "The ability to change is important for all of the brain's learning and adaptation processes," says Rosenkranz.

The findings indicate that people with depression have reduced brain plasticity than people in a healthy state. Following the program that included exercise, this capacity for change considerably improved and reached levels comparable to those of healthy individuals. At the same time, the group's depressed symptoms lessened. "The more the ability to change increased, the more clearly the clinical symptoms decreased," concludes Rosenkranz. In the group that participated in the control program, these changes were not as noticeable. “This shows that physical activity has an effect on symptoms and the brain's ability to change. We cannot say to what extent the change in symptoms and the brain's ability to change are causally linked based on this data," she says regarding the study’s limitations. It is well-known that physical activity benefits the brain, as it encourages the development of neuron connections. This could play a major role in the results of the study.

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Online Treatment Programs

10 May, 2023

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