Mindfulness Stress Reduction encourages a mind-body approach to health. It is part of a growing field of integrative medical care that combines the best scientific medicine with evidence-based therapies from complementary traditions. Recent research – which we have written about on this blog – has found that it has beneficial effects on stress as well as changing the function and maybe even the structure of the brain,.
It would seem that physical exercise and aerobic workouts have a similar effect. Indeed, molecular scientists and neurologists have suggested that physical exercise may alter brain chemistry by working on the key neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. In fact, exercise seems to work in much the same way that antidepressant drugs do. One researcher working in this area is Professor Philip Holmes at the University of Georgia, who has focused on the neurobiological effects of exercise. He has found that, over the course of several weeks, exercise affects certain genes that increase the brain’s level of galanin, a neurotransmitter that appears to tone down the body’s stress response by regulating another brain chemical, norepinephrine. His current work focuses on the link between stress and different addictions, and how exercise can reduce stress which leads to addictive behaviours: “Stress turns on norepinephrine,” says Holmes, “which turns on dopamine, which induces craving. Galanin decreases norepinephrine, so someone with high levels of galanin should experience reduced cravings.”
Researchers at Duke University support these findings. In a randomized controlled trial they found that depressed adults who participated in an aerobic-exercise plan improved as much as those treated with sertraline, the drug which, marketed as Zoloft, is one of the most prescribed anti-depressants.
You can find more on this subject in TIME Magazine: : http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1998021,00.html#ixzz0rgWOWgm0