As promised, here is part two of my exposition on health and depression. Yesterday I talked about the BDNF gene and how it is suppressed by sugar thus impacting serotonin which causes low mood.
Well, let’s talk a little more about serotonin. “Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the central nervous system and is involved in many physiological functions, including sleep, aggression, eating, sexual behaviour, and depression” (http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_08/d_08_m/d_08_m_dep/d_08_m_dep.html).
Serotonin serves to elevate mood and is manufactured by serotonergic neurons. Now remember yesterday we learned that BDNF aids in the survival of neurons by assuming a role in their maturation, and maintenance (http://scientopia.org/blogs/scicurious/2010/12/13/bdnf-and-depression/). Well with the low levels of BDNF that results in individuals who are depressed, serotonergic neurons are at risk as their survival and production of serotonin is greatly reduced. Low levels of serotonin result in low mood which can lead to depression.
What can be done to help imbalances in serotonin levels in people who are depressed? Well, anti-depressants are one alternative. But, exercise is another option. I’m not saying that if you’ve been prescribed medication for your condition that you should forego taking them and simply pick up exercise. I’m saying that exercise alongside your prescription drugs can help boost your mood further. Why does this occur? Research has not quite found the answer as to how serotonin levels are increased with exercise but I did find an interesting article that backs up the importance of exercise in building mood. It states that;
“….low to moderate intensity exercise tends to create a rise in serotonin. Long distance running, cycling, hiking, swimming, yoga, and sports that rely more on endurance than power create a rise in serotonin levels. Therefore, any sport or exercise that recruits more slow twitch muscle fibers than fast twitch muscle fibers, will increase serotonin levels. When we recruit slow twitch muscle fibers, the purpose is to be able to perform moderate intensity exercise for a long period of time. While the chemical connection between moderate intensity exercise and increased levels of serotonin in not fully understood, one could speculate that completing a difficult task, such as a long run creates an increase in positive emotional states, which would positively affect serotonin levels” (http://www.clairedorotik.com/NLWC-EXERCISE_AND_MOOD.htm)
In short, when you’re feeling down, try a little exercise and see if this helps boost your mood. For me, I have found that it has had a positive effect. Every morning I try to go out for a forty minute walk and do a ten minute run on the treadmill. It’s healthy and I feel the difference.