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Hitting the gym better than Anti-depressants?

This was re-posted from the Australian Spinal Research Foundation article 9 March 2017.

Depression is a worldwide issue. To give you some idea, it’s the number one psychological disorder in the western world1. And not unlike the common cold, it doesn’t discriminate between age groups or gender assignment. Depression is growing in all age groups, the largest increase noted in the younger generations, in our teenagers. At the rate of knots this psychological issue is developing, by 2020, it is estimated to be the second most debilitating condition behind heart disease.

Think about it, the neuroscientists at the University of Bern2, have. Traditional treatment for depression is usually with antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. But the study published in CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, found that sport and physical activity partially encounter the same neurophysiological changes as antidepressants.

There are several types of medication for the treatment of depression. Most of them work on blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitters we use to make us feel happy and upbeat. By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin – “the happy hormone”, dopamine – “the motivator hormone” and norepinephrine – “adrenaline”, a person has more of these targeted neurochemicals actively bathing their brains and producing positive feelings.

The researchers conducting the study, found that sport and physical activity brought about similar changes in the brain, that are normally only achieved through antidepressant drugs2. Not only did it affect the brains capacity to absorb serotonin and dopamine but epinephrine levels also increased. As a by-product of the surge in these neurochemicals, it was noted that the level of neurogenesis (new brain cells) in the brain also increased. This increase in neurotransmitters was noted to prevent the death of brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of our brain responsible for our emotional stability and memory. It’s also the part of the brain that is very vulnerable to stress. Low levels of neurogenesis in the hippocampus have been linked with depression and other psychiatric disorders.3 Researchers also noted a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol. Overall the effect on the brain of exercise was similar to the brain chemistry changes we see with psychotropic drug therapy.

The researchers found a large number of meta-analyses showed a positive effect of sport and physical activity on depression. Whilst the research supports that exercise is an effective tool for reducing symptoms of depression the study did not conclude how often or how long one should exercise.

“Unfortunately, the meta-analyses do not allow any conclusions as to how often and how long weekly sport should be pursued,” says Mirko Wegner, lead author in the study. “But one can see that sport and physical activity alleviate depression. For instance, we were also able to determine that the effectiveness of sport is greater with depressive disorders than with anxiety disorders.”

The obvious benefit of exercise is the lack of side effects so often encountered when using drug treatments to combat depression. It’s also can be more cost effective than medication and there’s the added benefit of all the wonderful aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise has benefits on most systems of the human body, your brain, your body and your longevity. So what are you waiting for? Go hit the treadmill and enjoying all those extra neurochemicals and additional brain cells.


[1] Seligman, M. E. P. (1990) Learned Optimism.

[2] Effects of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression Disorders: Review of Meta- Analyses and Neurobiological Mechanisms. Mirko Wegner, Ingo Helmich, Sergio Machado, Antonio Nardi, Oscar Arias-Carrion, Henning Budde. CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, 2014; 13 (6): 1002 DOI: 10.2174/1871527313666140612102841

[3] Major depression: a role for hippocampal neurogenesis? Lee MM, Reif A, Schmitt AG. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2013;14:153-79. doi: 10.1007/7854_2012_226. Review.

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Here’s 10 things happy people don’t care for.

1. AGE
Indeed, age is just a number. And happy people know this for sure.

They don’t let this ever-increasing number define who they are and what they do.  They just do whatever it is they want!

Life is short. Before you know it, age catches up. You might as well make full use of life before your body actually reflects your age.

On a more candid note, I know of friends who are happy because they date people younger than them. They actually found true love despite the age gap.

This is one of the biggest blocks to our happiness.

Happy people don’t care for that. They recognise that the words of others are never accurate and should never judge them for who they are and what they’re capable of.

Instead, they block it out. They don’t allow such false illusions to get in the way of what it is they want to do or how they feel. Only what they think of themselves matter.

That’s not to say happy people are unemployed.

The key idea is: You’re not your job.

Sure, a job is important for stability and survival in today’s society. But other than that, your job scope and status at work should be left at the office. If you don’t, it’s going to seep into your everyday life and you’d end up feeling tired, bored or stressed out.

What matters more is your talent, passion and outlook on life. Allowing your job to take over any of that would only mean you’re allowing a label to define who you are.

Fear is not real. Happy people know that.

With that, they know that the nervousness and anxiety that supposedly comes with fear are not real. They block it out, get out of their comfort zone, feel a little crazy and just do what they want anyway.

There’s just no point holding back in life just because you feel a little scared.

There’s a lot of disturbing stuff going on out there. War, protests, riots, animals going extinct or innocent people having bad things happen to them.

Happy people don’t deny any of these, but they do a good job in making sure it doesn’t affect how they feel.

The happiest people I know simply focus on trying to make the world a better place, one small step at a time. They may not be able to create a revolution overnight, but they know that by showing a little kindness and compassion to our fellow man, the world is that much more positive already.

Don’t let the negative in life get to you. It’s not your fault others have made it this way.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

Brilliant quote.

Ever had to deal with an annoying friend or somebody who’s just really self-destructive?

Dump them. It’s time to create a positive environment for yourself.

Happy people gain happiness from the people they are with and not just from within. This is an amazing life hack that most people overlook. If you’re feeling unhappy, take a look around. Sometimes it’s the people that are just dragging you down.

The past does not exist, neither does the future.

If you want to be happy, you’ve got to let go of the past and move on with life. Learn from it and grow from it, then make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

As for the future, happy people pretty much let go of expectations. .

When you let go of the past and future, then you can truly enjoy the present.

Start doing things for the sake of doing things. Help others for the sake of being compassionate. The true reward is knowing that you’ve added positivity in others.

Happy people let go of always wanting something in return. That’s how they never get disappointed.

Complaining is the result of an unhappy life. Sometimes things don’t go your way. You can’t escape that.

But complaining is useless. Happy people know that. They’re instead, grateful for what they have and then they try to find the solution with a positive mindset.

Just like age, there’re a lot of labels out there that try to define who we are. Expectations are always thrown at us and it can be pretty overwhelming at times.

Happy people don’t care for any of that. They take time their time. They look within and do what they want in life.

This is how happiness is created: Not doing things you don’t care for.

By DrJelena Rudic

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