“A lot of previous research on the effects of exercise on mental health, in general, have used very broad measures of wellbeing. What we were interested in, specifically, is: how does acute exercise — that is, one session of exercise in a day — influence the primary symptoms of depression,” said Jacob Meyer, a professor of kinesiology at ISU and the lead-author of both publications.
Exercise and depression: new studies
In the first study, the researchers took 30 adults who were experiencing episodes of major depression . The participants filled out electronic surveys immediately before, half-way-through and then after a 30-minute session of either moderate-intensity cycling or sitting, and then again 25, 50 and 75 minutes after the workout. Those who cycled during the first lab visit came back a week later to run through the experiment again with 30-minutes of sitting, and vice versa.
The surveys included questions and scales that are generally used to measure symptoms of depression and several cognitive tasks, including the Stroop test.
The researchers then used the survey data to track any changes in three characteristics of major depressive disorder: depressed mood state, anhedonia (problems experiencing pleasure from enjoyable activities) and reduced cognitive function.
During the cycling experiment, the participants stated that their depressed mood improved over the 30 minutes of exercise and consistently up to 75 minutes afterward. The improvement to anhedonia started to drop off at 75 minutes after exercise, but was still greater than the participants’ levels of anhedonia in the group that did not exercise.
With regard to cognition, participants who cycled were faster on the Stroop test mid-exercise but then performed relatively slower 25 and 50 minutes after exercise compared to participants in the resting group. Professor Meyer said more research is needed to understand the variation.
“The cool thing is these benefits to depressed mood state and anhedonia could last beyond 75 minutes. We would need to do a longer study to determine when they start to wane, but the results suggest a window of time post-exercise when it may be easier or more effective for someone with depression to do something psychologically or cognitively demanding,” said Meyer.
Microplastics found deep in living human lungs for the first time. Shock new study!
Microplastics have been found lodged deep in the lungs of living humans for the first time, the London Guardian reports.
A new study, in the journal Science of the Total Environment, builds on two previous studies (here and here) which showed microplastics in the lungs of dead people under autopsy.
Tissue was taken from patients undergoing surgery and in 11 of 13 cases, microplastics were found. The most common types were polypropylene and PET.
Although the study focuses on inhalation of microplastics, neither the study authors nor the Guardian’s reporting mentions the fact that polypropylene, one of the two most common types of plastic found in the biopsy samples, is a common ingredient in the disposable face masks that have become a part of everyday life during the pandemic.
Click here to read more about these shock findings
Following on from the first study, the research team led by Meyer wanted to answer a specific question.
“Can we synergize the short-term benefits we know that happen with exercise and the clear long-term benefits with therapy to deliver the most effective overall intervention?” asked Meyer.
The team conducted a pilot study in which half of the ten participants exercised on their own for 30 minutes at a pace they considered moderate intensity. The intensity was verified with Fitbit data. The participants then signed into an hour of virtual, cognitive behavior therapy each week. The other participants simply continued in their day-to-day activities prior to their therapy sessions.
At the end of the eight-week program, participants in both groups showed improvements, but those who exercised before talking with a therapist had more pronounced reductions in symptoms of depression.
The researchers said the results indicate exercise could help amplify the benefits of therapy for adults with depression.
“With such a small group, we did not perform formal statistical testing, but the results are promising,” said Meyer. “Overall, the pilot study showed people were interested and would stick with the combined approach, and that exercise seemed to have some effects on depression and a couple of the mechanisms of therapy.”
The researchers said they hope to expand on these studies to better understand how exercise could be incorporated into an effective treatment or intervention for people experiencing chronic depression.
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