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Work Out to Relieve Stress

Stressed out? Get up and start exercising!

If you’re not a fan of working out, you might want to reconsider. Did you know that when you exercise or engage in any physical activity, your brain is reorganized in such a way that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function?

A team based in Princeton University conducted an experiment using mice to prove this finding. They divided mice into two groups: one with a running wheel and the other without. They discovered that when the mice with access to the running wheel were exposed to a stressor like cold water, their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety. On the other hand, the mice without the running wheel were easily agitated upon exposure to the cold water.

Likewise, people who are physically fit are less likely to succumb to stressors (work, hormones, etc.) compared to those who do not engage in exercise at all. Physical activity also allows you to control the way you react to these stressors in a calmer manner. Notice how you tend to get more irritated by things after sitting for a long period of time compared to when you spend the day walking around? Yup, that’s the neuron spike kicking in.

Elizabeth Gould, a professor in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, explained, "Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behavior gives us potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders. It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment."  

So CGs, just remember: Keep Calm and Exercise.