Exercise relieves symptoms of depression

Robert Clatt

Depression affects the softness of the brain. A simple exercise program can reduce this effect and thus relieve symptoms of mental illness.


Bochum (Germany). About 10% of the population in Germany suffers from at least one disease during their lifetime depression. The causes of this mental illness in most cases are complex interactions between psychological, genetic and exogenous factors. In addition to constant stress and overload, this is also often the time of year and social isolation. According to a study by German Aid for Depression, lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused So a vicious circle In people who are already depressed and in people who are on the verge of becoming depressed.


world Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) About Wanja Brüchle They have now researched whether targeted exercise can alleviate existing depression and whether more activity can prevent depression. This was investigated because most people with depression, in addition to their secluded lifestyle, are also characterized by being physically inactive. This leads to a decrease in the density of synapses in the brain and in neuroplasticity. who – which brain So it can adapt less to new experiences.


Combined exercise and psychotherapy program

According to the trade magazine Frontiers in Psychiatry In the first published study, the team examined the neuropsychiatric status of 41 depressed patients in the clinic. The subjects were then divided into two groups, both of whom underwent psychotherapy. One group also completed a three-week training program, which, in addition to warm-up exercises, consisted primarily of exercise games completed in a group or with a partner.

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“In this way, motivation and social interaction were specifically enhanced and fears of challenges and negative experiences with physical activity – school sports keywords – were reduced,” explains Karin Rosenkranz.

Exercise reduces symptoms of depression

After just three weeks, the researchers noticed significant differences between the two groups. According to standard tests, participants in the exercise program had significantly more relief from depression symptoms than those tested who received psychological support only. In addition, subjects in the exercise group subjectively reported less pessimism, less intense fears, and greater motivation.


The scientists were also able to determine the effects of the exercise program in the brain, the plasticity of which was greatly increased in the motor cortex. It is the area responsible for the movements of the body. Changes have also occurred in other networks closely associated with this region. The brain’s desire for change decreases in a person depressed with movement.

Incorporating movements into therapy

This shows that there is an effect of physical activity on symptoms and the brain’s readiness for change. It is known that physical activity is good for the brain, for example because it stimulates the formation of new connections between neurons. Surely that could play a role here as well.”

The greater the desire to change neurons, the more markedly reduced the clinical symptoms. The results show how important supposedly simple things like physical activity are in treating and preventing diseases like depression.” So it makes sense to incorporate more movement into depression treatment.

Frontiers in Psychiatry, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.660642

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