Feeling Anxious? Consider Hitting the Pavement
Exercise is a pillar of good health. Like it or not, the fact is we need to move to stay healthy. Some intriguing new research suggests it may even be the answer to anxiety, irritability and general grouchiness during pregnancy.
Princeton University scientists showed recently that exercise protect the brain from stress-induced changes, at least in mice. If the process works the same in humans, as scientists expect, exercise could prevent undesirable changes in the hippocampus, an important structure within the brain that’s involved in memory and emotion. When Alzheimer’s disease begins its insidious damage to the brain, it takes hold first in the hippocampus.
If you prefer strictly human-based research, consider the results of a small study published recently in Psychology & Health. During pregnancy, many women experience “negative psychological states” Canadian researchers noted. They wondered if engaging in a regular program of physical exercise could help reduce negative feelings, such as depression, anxiety and fatigue.
Previously inactive women, in the second trimester of pregnancy, were recruited and enrolled in a program of exercise. Subjects’ mood was assessed at the beginning of the study and one month after engaging in about 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. After just one month of regular exercise, the women experienced significant improvements in mood, including decreases in depression, anger, tension, fatigue, and trait anxiety. They also reported increases in vigor. “From a psychological health perspective, these findings highlight the importance of continuing to promote exercise during pregnancy,” investigators wrote.
Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, Pieruzzini PR, Hsueh B, Gould E. Physical Exercise Prevents Stress-Induced Activation of Granule Neurons and Enhances Local Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Dentate Gyrus. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 33 (18): 7770 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5352-12.2013