We all know that exercise is great for stress relief. Exercise helps us exorcise our daily demons – be they an unfair boss, a traffic ticket, or just a bad day. A trail run, a tennis game, or a walk in the park can make it all better. Now researchers at Princeton are finding that exercise also equips our bodies to deal with stress better overall—even when we are not exercising.
Here’s how it works. During exercise we create new neurons. These neurons help to release a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps keep new neurons from becoming overactive in response to stress. The study compared the stress responses of exercising mice vs. sedentary mice. While the excitable neurons in both groups lit up in response to stress, the exercising mice also released a large amount of GABA that quickly diminished their anxiety. Researchers believe routine exercise creates a similar change in the human brain, helping us to be calm in the face of stress.
Source: Health and Science, The Week, July 26th, 2013, page 19.