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UCD Research Suggests Exercise May Help Restore Mental Health

Dave Whelan / Flickr

Dave Whelan / Flickr

Researchers at UC Davis say exercise may be as good for your brain as it is for your body.

Richard Maddock is a professor in the school's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He says low levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA are common in people with major depression.

His research team put about 40 healthy volunteers on stationary bicycles, had them pedal strenuously, then measured the two brain chemicals.

"In normal people, if they exercise vigorously, those neurotransmitters increase in concentration very quickly. Like, you know, while they're exercising the transmitter levels go up and they stay up for a half an hour after they finish exercising," says Maddock.

Maddock says, if further research supports the findings, it may be possible to adjust medications for people with clinical depression by adding exercise to their treatment plans.

"The amount of physical activity that people had had in the preceding week was a strong predictor of how high these neurotransmitter levels were in their brains when we studied them. So that it does look like this is yet another reason that being active is good for your brain's health and being sedentary probably is not," says Maddock. 

The research was published in this week's issue of "The Journal of Neuroscience."


Alan Ray

Senior Editor, News

As Senior Editor, Alan assigns stories and works with reporters on story planning. He helps develop feature stories with reporters for radio, for the View From Here series, and for daily news casts. He also anchors the news on All Things Considered.  Read Full Bio 

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