San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Discovery and Explanation of
a Benefit of Strenuous Exercise

When a person is subjected to chronic stress a chemical is produced in the blood which when it reachs the brain produces psychological depression. The name of that chemical is kynurenine. A study reported in the September 25th (2014) issue of Cell* reveals that muscles undergoing strenuous exercise produce a chemical called PGC-1 alpha 1 which, among other good things, blocks the effect of kynurenine. It converts kynurenine into kynurenic acid which does not enter the brain. A co-author of the study, Maria Lindskog of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, says, "It (a muscle) is like a detoxifying organ, almost."

The chemical PGC-1 alpha 1 also stimulates the body to produce more blood vessels and mitochondria. It is a general do-gooder chemical for the body. The chemical kynurenine is associated with other bad things besides the reaction to stress and psychological depression. Cancer, autoimmune disorders and other diseases which involve inflammation are associated higher levels of kynurenine. Thus these things would chemically as well as psychologically induce depression.

In order to get the production of PGC-1 alpha 1 one must exercise muscles strenuously. Walking and easy workouts are probably not enough. The muscles must be challenged by the exercise. This means that as one's condition improves the extent of the exercise must also increase.

*Leandro Z. Agudelo , Teresa Femenía , Funda Orhan , Margareta Porsmyr-Palmertz , Michel Goiny , Vicente Martinez-Redondo , Jorge C. Correia , Manizheh Izadi , Maria Bhat , Ina Schuppe-Koistinen , Amanda T. Pettersson , Duarte M.S. Ferreira , Anna Krook , Romain Barres , Juleen R. Zierath , Sophie Erhardt , Maria Lindskog , Jorge L. Ruas, "Skeletal Muscle PGC-1α1 Modulates Kynurenine Metabolism and Mediates Resilience to Stress-Induced Depression," Cell, September 25, 2014.

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