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People who exercise have better mental health, and a new American study that has used brain imaging techniques says something about why. Specifically: Intense exercise increases the levels of two neurotransmitters in the brain, glutamate and GABA, both of which are linked to depression.

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In other words, physical exercise can act as a natural antidepressant. This is something that appears in a news release on Eurekalert.


Physical exercise increases levels of glutamate and GABA in the brain

The findings from the study are published in this week's issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, and provide new information that supports that exercise may become an important part of the treatment of depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders in the future.

Depression is often characterized by low levels of glutamate and GABA, while the levels of these neurotransmitters normalize when mental health improves, says Professor Richard Maddock who is behind the study.

Our study shows that physical exercise activates the metabolism that fills the brain with these neurotransmitters.


Physical exercise as a treatment method for depression

The study found that there was a close relationship between the level of glutamate in the brain and how much the people had exercised during the last week.

Eurekalert writes:

These results point to the possibility that physical exercise can be used as an alternative treatment for depression. This can be especially important for patients under the age of 25, who sometimes have some side effects from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): antidepressant drugs that adjust the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Professor Maddock elaborates: 

Not all depressed people will get better from physical exercise, but many will be able to get better by getting physical exercise as a prescription.



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