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Exercise Affect On Mood Studied

exerciseAlthough anecdotal evidence promotes exercise as a means to reduce anxiety and depression, a new study questions the association.

Researchers found that voluntary physical activity did not appear to cause a reduction in anxiety and depression; however, it was discovered that exercise and mood may be associated through a common genetic factor.

The report is found in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

In the general population, regular exercise is associated with reduced anxious and depressive symptoms, according to background information in the article. Experiments involving specific clinical populations have suggested that exercise causes this reduction in anxiety and depression.

However, it is unclear whether this causal effect also occurs in the larger population or whether there is a third underlying factor influencing both physical activity and the risk for mood disorders.

Marleen H. M. De Moor, M.Sc., of VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues studied 5,952 twins from the Netherlands Twin Register, along with 1,357 additional siblings and 1,249 parents.

Participants, all aged 18 to 50, filled out surveys about leisure-time exercise and completed four scales measuring anxious and depressive symptoms.

Associations observed between exercise and anxious and depressive symptoms “were small and were best explained by common genetic factors with opposite effects on exercise behavior and symptoms of anxiety and depression,” the authors note.

“In genetically identical twin pairs, the twin who exercised more did not display fewer anxious and depressive symptoms than the co-twin who exercised less.”

Exercise behavior in one identical twin predicted anxious and depressive symptoms in the other, meaning that if one twin exercised more, the other tended to have fewer symptoms.

However, the same was not true of dizygotic (fraternal) twins or other siblings, who share only part of their genetic material. In addition, analyses over time showed that individuals who increased their level of exercise did not experience a decrease in anxious and depressive symptoms.

“It is unknown which genes might be involved in voluntary exercise behavior and in the risk for anxiety and depression,” the authors write, but genes involved in the brain pathways that process dopamine, norepinephrine, opioids or serotonin are likely candidates.

The results do not mean that exercise cannot benefit those with anxiety or depression, the authors note, only that additional trials would be needed to justify this type of therapy.

“Only voluntary leisure-time exercise is influenced by genetic factors, whereas the other type of exercise [directed and monitored by someone else] is environment-driven. The absence of causal effects of voluntary exercise on symptoms of anxiety and depression does not imply that manipulation of exercise cannot be used to change such symptoms,” they write.

“The antidepressant effects of exercise may only occur if the exercise is monitored and part of a therapeutic program.”

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Exercise Affect On Mood Studied

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Exercise Affect On Mood Studied. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/08/05/exercise-affect-on-mood-studied/2693.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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