We know that regular exercise has many benefits, including preventing disease, increasing endorphins and lowering stress. However, a recent study showed that being physically active can cause the brain to be more resistant to stress.
Previous studies showed that certain neurons grow in response to exercise. In addition, physical activity can stop neurons that cause anxiety from firing. In a more recent study, researchers wanted to find out why.
Two groups of mice were used in this study. One given unlimited access to an exercise wheel and one was not. After a few weeks, both groups of mice were exposed to cold water (stress) for a short time. The physically active mice could run after the exposure to stress, while the less active mice could not. Researchers concluded that the brains of the physically active mice were able to reorganize in a way that reduced response to stress and anxiety.
“Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behavior gives us potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders.” Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T. Warren professor of psychology, said in apress release. “It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment.”