Physical activity makes you happy and is important to maintain psychological health. Researchers studied the brain regions that play a central role in this process. Their findings show that even everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, significantly improve well-being, especially in individuals prone to psychiatric disorders.
Exercise improves physical well-being and mental health. However, the effects of everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, walking or walking to the tram station instead of driving a car, on a person's mental health have so far hardly been studied. For example, it is not yet clear which brain structures are involved. A team from the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Mannheim, KIT's Institute of Sports and Sports Science and the GIScience/Geoinformatics Research Group at the University of Heidelberg have now studied the daily activities that make up most of our lives. daily exercise. Climbing stairs every day can help us feel awake and full of energy. This promotes well-being,” explain the study authors. These are Dr. Markus Reichert who conducts research at CIMH and KIT and Dr. Urs Braun, Head of the Complex Systems Research Group at CIMH's Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Clinic.
The research results are particularly relevant in the current situation with Corona restrictions and the coming winter. “We are currently experiencing strong restrictions on public life and social contacts, which can have a negative effect on our well-being,” said Professor Heike Tost, head of the Systems Neuroscience Psychiatry Research Group at the Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Clinic. “It can help to climb stairs more often to feel better.”
Daily activities enhance alertness and physical energy
67 subjects were subjected to ambulatory assessments to determine the impact of daily activity on alertness over seven days. It turned out that the subjects felt more alert and had even more energy immediately after the activity. Alertness and energy were found to be important components of the participants' well-being and psychological health.
Brain regions for everyday activities and identified well-being
These analyzes were combined with magnetic resonance tomography at CIMH for another group of 83 subjects. To find out which areas of the brain play a role in these everyday processes, the amount of gray matter in the brain was measured. It turned out that the subgenual cingulate cortex, a part of the cerebral cortex, is important for the interaction between daily activity and affective well-being. It is in this brain region where emotions and resistance to psychiatric disorders are regulated. The authors identified this brain region as a decisive neural correlation that mediates the relationship between physical activity and subjective energy. “People with a smaller amount of gray matter in this region and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders felt less energetic when they were physically inactive,” Heike Tost describes the results. “However, after everyday activity, these individuals felt even more energized than individuals with greater brain volume.”
Specific use of physical activity in everyday life
Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Director of CIMH and Medical Director of the Clinic of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, concludes that “the results suggest that physical activity in everyday life is beneficial for well-being, particularly in individuals predisposed to psychiatric disorders. .”