Updated 04 July 2014

Impact of healthy lifestyle choices on depression

New studies underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of ageing, and learning.


New studies released today underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of ageing, and learning. The research focused on the effects of mind/body awareness, exercise, and diet, and was presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

The experiences and choices people make throughout life actively impact the brain. As humans live longer, these choices also affect ageing and quality of life. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise will be important to aging populations as non-drug, easy-to-follow interventions with few side effects, make ideal potential therapies.

New findings show that:

  • As few as 12 consecutive days of exercise in ageing rats helps preserve and improve movement function, an effect possibly caused by changes in dopamine. The results suggest that exercise could stave off or reverse the slowed movements that are hallmarks of age.
  • Practices like yoga or meditation that increase mind/body awareness help people learn a brain-computer interface quicker. This finding may have implications for those who need brain-computer interfaces to function, such as people with paralysis.
  • Long-term exercise in ageing rats improves memory function, as well as increases the number of blood vessels in the white matter of their brains – the tracts that carry information between different areas of the brain. Increased blood flow may explain why exercise can help preserve memory.
  • Regular, supervised exercise helped young adults with depression overcome their symptoms in a pilot study. The results suggest that exercise could be an important treatment for depression in adolescents.
  • A low calorie diet starting in middle-age onward protected rats against the effects of ageing on movement. The results suggest that dietary interventions can help preserve movement function in a manner similar to exercise.

Keeping fit is critical

We all know that keeping fit is critically important to a healthy lifestyle, from combating the effects of ageing to boosting our mood," said press conference moderator Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia, who is an expert on exercise and its role in healthy ageing. "Today's results begin to show us not only how different types of exercise interventions can improve our lives, but how other types of lifestyle behaviours, from diet to meditative practice, can help us achieve wellness in our body and our brain as we age."



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Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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