You probably already know that exercise calms anxiety. But did you ever wonder why? After all, it seems more logical that physical exercise might actually get you more fired up.
A group of psychologists from Princeton University recently published the findings of a mouse study they performed to figure out how exercise works to soothe the anxious brain.
While it’s true that humans and mice are not closely related, their study suggests that the act of performing regular exercise actually transforms the brain.
A New York Times report said that exercising can be somewhat paradoxical, because it encourages the brain to create younger and more easily excitable neurons.
However, after looking closer, the researchers discovered that the brains of exercisers also contained new neurons that were specifically intended to release a calming neurotransmitter called GABA.
The brains of exercising mice got just as excited by stress as the brains of sedentary ones — but the exercisers were capable of calming down much faster.
By the way, if you’re already feeling anxious just at the thought of trying to fit time for exercise into your busy day, here’s something that might make you feel calmer.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some studies suggest that the exericse doesn’t need to be prolonged to help. Their statement said:
“Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout…Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.”
So if you want to see how exercise can calm anxiety for yourself, you don’t have to make a huge investment in time to try it out.
[exercise photo by Maxim Ibragimov via Shutterstock]