A workout promotes a natural endorphin hit but we now know this isn't the main mechanism underlining the powerful anti-depressant affects of exercise.
With estimates upward of 350 million people worldwide living with depression, finding ways to manage and alleviate it is critical.
It should come as no surprise that exercise can alter the proteins within muscle. For example, we know that lifting weights changes contractile proteins responsible for size and strength. Cardio exercise changes proteins to improve the transfer of oxygen and nutrient uptake.
But now we know that exercise training also increases the concentration of certain proteins within muscle that act to protect the brain.
Researchers have discovered that the concentration of one specific protein, PGC-1alpah1, was remarkably higher in exercise trained muscle compared to untrained muscle. This particular protein is important because it maintains a high concentration of what we call KAT enzymes.
KAT enzymes are responsible for converting kynurenine into kynurenic acid - a really important process.
In times of stress, this is a key mechanism that protects against kynurenine crossing the blood-brain barrier and damaging delicate tissue in the brain. Damage that leads to behaviour changes and depression.
The biochemical changes that occur in the muscle from regular exercise help to prevent the brain from stress-induced damage.
The researchers compared exercised muscle to organs such as the liver or kidneys for their unique ability to help remove potentially harmful substances that build up in the blood during times of stress.
Regular exercise helps combat and prevent depression. One of the mechanisms appears to be by increasing the concentration of certain proteins within muscle that act to protect the brain against depression.
It's a critical reason why you need to keep exercising through stressful times.
So keep up that training!
Have a great week.
FOLLOW Dr Paul Cribb PhD.