David Kirkpatrick

August 19, 2010

Yoga improves your mood

I have no doubt about this research. This year I’ve become a huge pusher of Wii Fit Plus, and I regularly do about a thirty minute yoga workout on the balance board. I’m as flexible as I’ve ever been, and according to this research my mood is better and I have less anxiety for my efforts. All I know is it’s pretty fun and more than a little bit cool to work out with an on-screen trainer putting you through the paces.

From the second link, the release:

New study finds new connection between yoga and mood

Boston, MA—Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety. The findings, which currently appear on-line at Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

The researchers set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga subjects with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The researchers followed two randomized groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week long period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the remaining subjects walked for the same period of time. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began. At week 12, the researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final 60-minute session.

Each subject was also asked to assess his or her psychological state at several points throughout the study, and those who practiced yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM.

According to Streeter, this promising research warrants further study of the relationship between yoga and mood, and suggests that the practice of yoga be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders.

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Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

July 14, 2010

Exercise improves your mental health

Via KurzweilAI.net — regular exercise provides many, many benefits and it’s not surprising improved mental health is among them. Since you’re reading this in front of a computer, take a few minutes sometime today to at least go on a brisk walk. Personally I do a bit of physical exercise, but nothing like I did when I was much younger. Now I completely swear by a 30 minute to hour daily workout on the Wii Fit Plus. For some reason I enjoy the idea of having a virtual trainer guiding my workout. It has something of “the future has arrived” science-fictiony feel to it for me.

Exercise reduces anxiety and depression

Exercise can ameliorate anxiety and depression-like behaviors induced by an adverse early-life environment by altering the chemistry of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates stress responses, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found.

In the study, rats were divided into groups and either isolated from their mothers for controlled periods of time to induce stress or given normal maternal contact. Half were given access to a running wheel. In addition to being more anxious, animals that were subjected to stress early in life had higher levels of stress hormones and fewer steroid receptors in the part of the brain controlling behaviour.

“Both the anxious behaviour and the levels of hormones in these rats were reversed with access to the exercise wheel,” said UNSW Professor of Pharmacology Margaret Morris.

“We know that exercise can elevate mood, but here we are seeing chemical changes that may underpin this improvement. One of these is increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps nerve cells grow.

“Many neurological diseases appear to have their origins early in life. Stress hormones affect the way nerve cells grow in the brain. This discovery may be giving us a clue about a different way to tackle a range of conditions that affect mood and behaviour,” she said.

More info: University of New South Wales news

Here’s the PhysOrg take on this story.