A large-scale study from the University of Exeter has found ‘robust evidence’ that being overweight hikes up your risk of developing depression – but as fresh evidence confirms, logging your morning miles is one of the most effective ways to fight back. Exercise jolts your brain into action, and not just because of the endorphin high … ‘Obesity and depression are both major global health challenges, and our study provides the most robust evidence to date that higher BMI causes depression,’ said lead author Jess O’Loughlin. ‘Understanding whether physical or social factors are responsible for this relationship can help inform effective strategies to improve mental health and wellbeing.’
‘Our research suggests that being fatter leads to a higher risk of depression, regardless of the role of metabolic health,’ she continues. ‘This suggests that both physical health and social factors, such as social stigma, both play a role in the relationship between obesity and depression’ … Exercise combats depression with a one-two punch, the Ruhr-Universität Bochum team found: not only does it neutralise symptoms, but it also increases the brain’s ability to change, known as neuroplasticity.
For the study, they enlisted 41 people undergoing treatment for depression and assigned half of them to a three-week exercise programme developed by the sports science team from the University of Bielefeld (the other group acted as a control). The scientists established the severity of participants’ depressive symptoms both before and after the programme and recorded neuroplasticity using transcranial magnetic stimulation.
At the end of the three weeks, depressive symptoms decreased among participants who completed the exercise programme, while neuroplasticity ‘increased significantly’.
Higher adiposity and mental health: causal inference using Mendelian randomization (Human Molecular Genetics). From the Abstract:
… Our study provides further evidence that higher BMI causes higher odds of depression and lowers well-being. Using genetics to separate out metabolic and psychosocial effects, our study suggests that in the absence of adverse metabolic effects higher adiposity remains causal to depression and lowers well-being.
Physical Activity Reduces Clinical Symptoms and Restores Neuroplasticity in Major Depression (Frontiers in Psychiatry). From the Abstract:
…In summary, PA improved symptoms of MDD and restored the deficient neuroplasticity. Importantly, both changes were strongly related on the individual patients’ level, highlighting the key role of neuroplasticity in the pathophysiology and the clinical relevance of neuroplasticity-enhancing interventions for the treatment of MDD.