Voluntary exercise does not appear to alleviate anxiety and depression

Aug 04, 2008

Voluntary physical activity does not appear to cause a reduction in anxiety and depression, but exercise and mood may be associated through a common genetic factor, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry..

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.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Drugs used to treat lung disease work with the body clock

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vital balance brought to elders
 by Tele-Tai Chi

Nov 18, 2010

Imagine swaying to and fro, dancing to the rhythm of a slow love song. Then switch that image to maintaining balance while standing on one foot. How about standing straight with two feet on the ground and not moving? It's ...

Exercise's brain benefits

Jul 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Athletes have long known about the natural "high" exercise can induce. Now, for the first time, medical researchers have demonstrated that exercise can reverse the effects in the brain of psychological trauma ...

Recommended for you

New technology allows hair to reflect almost any color

Jul 25, 2014

What if you could alter your hair to reflect any color in the spectrum? What if you could use a flatiron to press a pattern into your new hair color? Those are possibilities suggested by researchers from ...

User comments : 0