(Sparknotes Version) 💪🏼🧠Mental Health & Exercise: Why does it matter and how does it help? Recent article I wrote for @golden.homefitness (link in bio)
Mental health is a big deal. A really big deal: mental illness impacts 1/3 young people and 1/5 overall, with the highest suicide rates in middle age and elderly; it’s costing the US economy $193 billion each year, and only 43% of those with a mental illness receive care. Far fewer men, young people, and minorities receive care. Limited access to quality care, stigma around seeking out care, and more all influence this.
Both aerobic exercise and strength training have been shown to have effect sizes similar to pharmaceutical treatments and traditional care (both vital parts of the puzzle, but not being accessed by a majority of the people who need it). Exercise and non stigmatized lifestyle interventions are needed to improve quality of life for these people.
In the most recent research, systemic inflammation and stress play a big role. How exercise exactly helps seems to be in part from the kynurenine pathway of the amino acid tryptophan. Higher levels of kynurenine are produced and cross the blood brain barrier during high inflammation and the result is neurotoxic, leading to depression and schizophrenia symptoms. During exercise, KAT, an enzyme that negates this effect, is produced in skeletal muscle. The fitter you are, the more robust this response, though it improves quickly with training.