Read the following passage carefully:
Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety aren’t easy to treat. Medications help many but have a high failure rate and may bring nasty side effects. Talk therapy is time-consuming and expensive. And neither approach is suited to preventing the disorders from developing in the first place. But many people overlook another option that, when it works, can be one of the most effective, least disruptive and cheapest ways of managing mental health disorders: exercise.
It’s hardly news that exercise is good for your physical health, and has long been extolled for mental health as well. But researchers are now making progress in understanding how, exactly, exercise may work its mental magic.
Exercise, they are learning, has profound effects on brain structure itself, and especially in regions most affected by depression and schizophrenia. It also provides other, more subtle benefits such as focus, a sense of accomplishment and sometimes social stimulation, all of which are therapeutic in their own right. And while more is generally better, even modest levels of physical activity, such as a daily walk, can pay big dividends for mental health.
“It’s a very potent intervention to be physically active,” says Anders Hovland, a clinical psychologist at the University of Bergen in Norway.
But that knowledge has barely begun to percolate into practice, says Joseph Firth, a mental health researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK. Just ask a hundred people receiving mental health care how many are getting exercise prescriptions as part of that care. “You wouldn’t find many,” Firth says.
Some of the strongest evidence for the mental benefits of exercise centres on depression. In 2016, Hovland and his colleagues searched the published literature and identified 23 clinical trials that tested the effectiveness of exercise in treating depression. Exercise was clearly effective and, in few studies, on par with antidepressant drugs, the researchers concluded.
And exercise offers several advantages. For one thing, antidepressant medications generally take several weeks or months to show their full effect. Exercise can improve mood almost immediately, making it a valuable supplement to frontline treatments such as drugs or therapy, notes Brett Gordon, an exercise psychology researcher at the Penn State College of Medicine. Plus, he says, exercise can counteract some of the unpleasant side effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain.
There’s now emerging evidence that exercise also seems to help in treating or avoiding anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and possibly other serious psychotic conditions as well.
Scientists have come up with a few ideas about how exercise enhances mental health, says Patrick J. Smith, a psychologist and biostatistician at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. One likely possibility is that exercise buffs up the brain as well as the body. Physical exercise triggers the release of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is one of the key molecules that encourage the growth of new brain cells — including, possibly, in the hippocampus, a brain region important in memory and learning.
Attempt the following questions based on the passage:
Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a
protein that causes degeneration of the brain.
protein that possibly plays a positive role in strengthening the brain.
protein associated with neuromuscular disorders.
molecule that impedes learning and memory.
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