Health & Diet

Building Muscle May Prevent Depression, Study Finds

working out

Don’t skip your muscle building as weight lifting can actually prevent depression, a new study says.

We all know about endorphins and the happy effect these post-workout chemicals have on our brain. They’re responsible for getting athletes through 42 -kilometre marathons and intense triathlons. While endorphins are commonly associated with cardiovascular activities, Swedish researchers have found that muscle may be more important in the fight against depression, as published in the online version of the journal Cell on September 25.

In mouse studies at the Karolinska Institutet, neuroscientists showed that the change in exercising muscles helped rid the body of a stress-induced amino acid called kynurenine that has been associated with mental illness.

Muscle building increases the amount of a protein known as PGC-1(alpha)1. The Swedish scientists exposed both normal mice and genetically modified mice with high levels of PGC-1(alpha)1 in their muscles to a harsh environment with loud noises and flashing lights. After five weeks, the normal mice were showing symptoms of depression including lethargy and disinterest in food, but the genetically modified mice did not.

Scientists believe the muscled up mice detoxed their brain of stress-related neurochemicals with higher-than-normal levels of an enzyme called KAT.

“It’s possible that this work opens up a new pharmacological principle in the treatment of depression, where attempts could be made to influence skeletal muscle function instead of targeting the brain directly,” said Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

“Skeletal muscle (when activated) can protect the brain from insults and related mental illness.”

Using dumbbells has never seemed so smart.


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