Exercise and Neurotrophic Factors

 

Exercise pic
Exercise
Image: health.harvard.edu

Serving patients as a consulting psychiatrist with Healthcare Alternative Systems and Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare in Chicago, Dr. Carol Lynn Childers has experience treating patients with a variety of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Dr. Carol Lynn Childers has a particular interest in the beneficial effects of exercise for her patients.

Exercise has been shown to have substantial health benefits for those with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, partly because it increases chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine in the brain. However, its wide-ranging benefits also include better cognitive function because it causes nerve cells to increase the release of neurotrophic factors in the brain.

A group of proteins, neurotrophic factors play a significant part in a variety of cognitive functions. They improve neuron growth and survival, as well as enhancing plasticity of synapses. Consequently, neurotrophic factors have beneficial effects in areas ranging from functioning of the nervous system to the storage of memories. And since they control cell differentiation, they can also help prevent neurological disorders.

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Studies Highlight Role of Exercise in Mental Illness Treatment

 

Exercise pic
Exercise
Image: health.harvard.edu

In addition to treating women with postpartum depression through a Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling Postpartum Depression Foundation grant, Dr. Carol Lynn Childers serves as a consulting psychiatrist for Trilogy, Inc., and for Healthcare Alternative Systems, where she assists with a residential substance abuse treatment center. Dr. Carol Lynn Childers has a particular interest in the positive effects of physical exercise on her patients.

Scientific studies provide extensive evidence that physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, substantially improves treatment for those with substance abuse disorders. Incorporating an exercise regimen into the treatment plan has also benefited those with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.

The positive effects of exercise come from its influence over various biochemical and physiological processes in the body. These include the release of endorphins, balancing neurotransmitters, and reducing inflammation. Exercise also affects the hypothalamic-pituaitary-adrenal axis, mitochondria, and other parts of the natural mood regulation system.

These physical changes resulting from exercise play an important role in easing depression and anxiety. They also assist with abstinence from substance abuse and decrease symptoms of withdrawal.