Research Finds Possible Neurobiological Link Between Exercise and Stress Reduction
Increased physical activity is associated with resistance to stress but the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this effect are not clear, according to recent research.
A recent study explores how exercise can reduce stress. Increased physical activity is associated with resistance to stress but the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this effect are not clear, according to recent research.
A potential cause of this effect is the expression of galanin, a neural protein in the locus coeruleus (LC) — a cluster of neurons in the brainstem involved in the stress response, researchers find. Galanin has been found to modulate stress and mood in both humans and rodent models.
The study tested whether physical activity in mice (wheel running) increases stress resilience and galanin expression in the LC of the subjects. Researchers also genetically increased galanin in a group of sedentary mice. The mice were then subjected to a foot-shock test (stressful event) and examined for anxious behavior 24 hours later.
According to the findings, mice that had exercised showed less anxious behavior after the stressful event compared to mice that didn’t exercise. The amount of time the mice exercised correlated with increased stress resilience. Meanwhile, the sedentary mice with genetically increased galanin also exhibited beneficial stress resilience effects.
Regular, aerobic exercise appears to have a greater effect on stress resilience than non-aerobic exercise, the researchers concluded. The galanin system could be a potential target for future therapies to gain the positive effects of exercise on stress resilience for people who are not able to exercise, they add.
While research on the galanin system continues, the benefits of exercise on brain and mental health are well established. Pharmacists can recommend that customers get regular exercise to reduce stress and keep their mind sharp.