Everyday activities such as climbing stairs or simply walking to the neighbourhood store can significantly enhance our personal well-being during the pandemic times, particularly in people susceptible to psychiatric disorders.
It is a well-known fact that exercise enhances physical well-being and mental health but the impact of everyday activities on a person’s mental health has hardly been studied so far. For example, it is not yet clear which brain structures are involved.
Now researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Germany have studied the brain regions which play a central role in this process.
“Climbing stairs every day may help us feel awake and full of energy. This enhances our well-being,” the authors wrote in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.
“At present, we are experiencing strong restrictions of public life and social contacts which may adversely affect our well-being. To feel better, it may help to climb stairs more often,” said Professor Heike Tost from CIMH in Mannheim, Germany.
To reach this conclusion, 67 people were subjected to ambulant assessments to determine the impact of everyday activity on alertness for seven days.
It was found that the people felt more alert and were bursting with even more energy directly after the activity.
Alertness and energy were proved to be important components of well-being and psychic health of the participants.
These analyses were combined with magnetic resonance tomography at CIMH for another group of 83 people.
“It was found that the ‘subgenual cingulate cortex’, a section of the cerebral cortex, is important for the interaction between everyday activity and effective well-being,” the authors wrote.
It is in this brain region where emotions and resistance to psychiatric disorders are regulated.
The authors identified this brain region to be a decisive “neural correlate” that mediates the relationship between physical activity and subjective energy.
“People with a smaller volume of gray brain matter in this region and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders felt lesser full of energy when they were physically inactive,” Tost said.
“After everyday activity, however, these persons felt even more filled with energy than persons with a larger brain volume.”
Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Director of CIMH, said “the results suggest that physical activity in everyday life is beneficial to well-being, particularly in persons susceptible to psychiatric disorders”.