If you’ve ever wondered if exercise could really help you beat stress, a new study has identified the way that breaking a sweat protects you from feeling anxious or depressed.

Researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet report that exercise causes changes in skeletal muscle. These changes flush out chemicals that accumulate during stress and plunge you into depression.

Training and exercising our muscles increases levels of a protein called PGC-1a1, which aides the muscle conditioning that occurs when we workout. To study the protein’s impact on health, the research team raised levels of PGC-1a1 in the skeletal muscle in a group of mice.

The PGC-1a1 group of mice and a control group of mice, which did not have elevated levels of PGC-1a1, were then exposed to high levels of stress. They were bombarded with

Fruits and Veggies Can Make You Happy

(Photo: Monashee Frantz/Getty Images)

(Photo: Monashee Frantz/Getty Images)

We think of creamy carbohydrates, such as ice cream, as comfort food, but new research from Warwick University in London, studied health habits and well-being among 13, 983 adults and found that 33.5 percent of respondents with the most robust mental health ate at least five, ½-cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day, compared with 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion. Researchers concluded that there’s a reliable link between healthy eating and feeling good.

loud noises, flashing lights and disturbances in their circadian rhythm (our daily, 24-hour cycle of biological activity).

After five weeks, the researchers observed depressive behaviors in the control group of mice, but the mice with the elevated levels of PGC-1a1, the chemical produced by exercise, had no depressive symptoms at all. They seemed unaffected by stress.

“Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a substance with beneficial effects on the brain. We actually found the opposite: well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances. So in this context the muscle’s function is reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver,” says Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at Karolinska’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, in a university interview.

They found that the high levels of PGC-1a1 produced enzymes and other substances that worked to protect the brain from the chemicals produced by stress. By doing so, the mice were protected from feeling the impact of stress and experiencing depression.

“In neurobiological terms, we actually still don’t know what depression is. Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress,” said Mia Lindskog, a researcher in the university’s Department of Neuroscience.

So the next time you can’t bring yourself to get up and move, envision the healing and positive effect that exercise has not just on your body, but also on your mind. It might make it easier to workout.