For many people the holiday season is a high stress affair. But what if you could alter your brain to make it more biochemically and molecularly calm? That almost sounds like a wonder drug, doesn’t it?
For years is has been known that exercise enhances our mood and makes us better able to handle stress. This interesting article from the New York Times discusses several research projects that help explain why.
In studies performed on rats, it has been shown that running creates new brain cells, and that these new cells are better equipped to handle stressful situations. Moderate exercise also appears to dampen the effects of oxidative stress, which can kill brain cells.
What these different studies seem to suggest is that the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re better equipped to handle stress in other forms. Unfortunately all of the researchers agree that these changes don’t happen overnight.
It took about six weeks for the rats, but it is unclear how this would relate to humans. We also don’t yet know how intense the exercise needs to be, nor do we know if other forms of exercise besides those that build aerobic endurance have the same effect (I guess it’s hard to get the rats to lift weights).
The one thing that is clear is that endurance exercise is one of the best thinks you can do for your brain. You may not feel different overnight, but the molecular changes are very real and their effects can help you navigate through the stressful times of your life.