Running is rewarding, antidepressive. Running has beneficial effects in treatment of depression. Running can increase neurogenesis in hippocampus in rodents.
But what have addictive drugs and exercise in common?
- Excessive training can result in fatigue and mood disturbances.This is comparable to withdrawal in substance abusers.
- Sudden cessation of running can result in withdrawal with negative mood states comparable to drug withdrawal.
- It is for both not known why controlled behavior such as running can change to compulsive running or from recreational alcohol use can change in compulsive consumatory behavior.
- In animal it has been shown that genetically modified mice that have similar responses to seeking reward from an addictive drug also seek a more natural rewarding behavior when given the change (wheel running).
- Mice prone to addiction will easily change from moderate to high reward consumption of addictive drugs when given the opportunity. For wheel running they show the same behavior.
- In animal studies running and antidepressants causes neurochemical and morphological adaptations in brain reward pathways and hippocampus that also are shared by addictive drugs.
Why should we care?
I fully agree with the authors that since running has beneficial effects in the treatment of depression a better understanding of the effects in the brain could lead to novel treatments for depression.
BRENE, S., BJORNEBEKK, A., ABERG, E., MATHE, A., OLSON, L., WERME, M. (2007). Running is rewarding and antidepressive. Physiology & Behavior, 92(1-2), 136-140. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.05.015