Exercise Cools Rage Reactions
In a recent Sunday Times Magazine article , the phys ed writer Gretchen Reynolds described a recent study that found that for young men with “high trait anger,” which she translated as having “a very short fuse” and being “habitually touchy,” exercise took the edge off their intense emotions.
Extrapolating from studies that demonstrated a link between low levels of serotonin and aggression in animals, and mood disorders in humans, the researchers hypothesized that because the neurotransmitter serotonin increases with exercise, it probably plays a role in the modulation of anger.
Individuals with traumatic histories often react defensively with rage when triggered, usually by situations that their brains associate with previous hurts. In addition, the development of a healthy serotonin regulatory system in the brain can be negatively impacted by early trauma, leaving the adult without the full benefit of a neurotransmitter that has been shown to calm nerves.
It comes as good news then that exercise has the potential to help trauma survivors deal effectively with their reactivity. The freedom experienced once runaway emotions come under control opens up possibilities for exploring the stories embedded in them, one more reason to push away from that computer or get off the couch and take a brisk walk.