Stressed out? Go for a run.
At least, that’s what researchers reporting in the Journal of Neuroscience might tell you—and really, lots of psychiatrists too.
Physical exercise is known to reduce anxiety. In order to explore the link between the two further, researchers decided to examine the effects of exercise on the ventral hippocampus, a region of the brain linked to anxiety regulation.
Researchers took two groups of mice, give one unlimited access to a running wheel and the others no running wheel; as those of you who are uncles know, mice and other rodents are natural runners, sometimes going for several kilometres a night. After six weeks, the mice were exposed to cold water, which acted as a stressor.
The brain activity of the mice who could exercise showed a burst of neurons inhibiting the anxiety-related neurons of the ventral hippocampus. They also released a neurotransmitter called GABA, which represses excitement. The sedentary mice had none of these benefits. Furthermore, scientists found that when they blocked GABA, the anxiety-reducing effects were cancelled out.
Granted, you are not a mouse, and maybe, just maybe, the same effect won’t carry over to adult me—but we doubt it. So, at the end of the day, go hit the gym. Your brain may thank you for it later.