Guest editorial: ‘Sweat equity’ defined

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have figured out that exercise safeguards against depression.
Anyone who experiences stress — absolutely every person on the planet — knows physical activity makes you feel better. There’s nothing like a brisk walk — around the Trail Around Middlebury, in the Green Mountains or just around town, or a run or bike ride— to clear one’s mind of life’s annoyances.
The Swedish researchers knew that as well. What they didn’t know, but confirmed, is that the body, through exercise, produces an enzyme (PGC-1alpha1) that protects against depression. It’s essentially a promoter of activity in other genes, which alter the body’s physiological processes.
They discovered a substance called Kynurenine that accumulates in our bloodstreams caused by stress. The higher the PGC-1alpha1 content (created through exercise), the more likely it was that the Kynurenine would be broken down before it got to the brain, thus insulating us from depression.
For most, the Swedish study confirms the obvious. We know we feel better after we exercise.
So why do we keep studying what we already know?
Because we keep having to prove — beyond a shadow of a doubt — what lots of us don’t want to admit: There is value in a raised heart rate.
It’s another way to define “sweat equity.”
Although Vermonters seem to do a better job on the exercise front than most others in the country, it’s not always easy. It’s early October and in our sped-up lives we’re already looking at May as the next time the forest floor will be absent its cover of snow.
We also have a tendency to think, in our high-tech society, that we can “medicine” our way out of the need to exercise. “If we can put a man on the moon…”
We will start to feel better when we begin to accept and understand what the Greeks said eons ago: Sound body, sound mind.
Exercise is medicine.
— Emerson Lynn/St. Albans Messenger

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