Does exercise really help to combat depression, stress and anxiety?
The straight answer is yes, but why?
Learning -of both helpful and unhelpful things, relies on the synapses (connections) between our neurons (cells in the brain that communicate using electrical impulses). Once a synapse is created it can last for as long as we keep using it, however, if we no longer use it can degenerate.
Neuroscientists have discovered that an estimated 20% of our synapses can potentially change in a 24-hour period. We form new synapses as we need them so new learning and stimulating thoughts cause new synapses to be produced. Similarly, several studies suggest that a lack of stimulation is associated with a reduced number of synaptic connections.
Prolonged stress, periods of depression and frequent high levels of anxiety can interfere with the function of these neurotransmitters too.
A reduced number of synapses or malfunctioning synapses can reduce our ability to think clearly and quickly and this may lessen our abilities to cope leading to overload much more quickly.
The good news is that when we partake in exercise in which our heart rate is raised, neuron growth is accelerated, enabling us to cope better, elevating our mood and improving our cognitive ability.
This really does provide evidence that exercise not only helps physiologically, boosting circulation, burning calories, toning muscles and maintaining flexibility but also greatly helps our emotional health too.