Neurological and neurodegenerative conditions, physical activities, and the endocannabinoid system – how might all these be linked?
Can physical activity support the endocannabinoid system in the preventive and therapeutic approach to neurological disorders?
The endocannabinoid signaling system (ECS) of the body includes naturally produced chemicals called cannabinoids, the receptors which they bind to, and the enzymes that synthesize and degrade them. This system mediates diverse aspects of brain functions such as memory and generation of new neurons. On the flip side, its defects are characteristics of many neurological and neurodegenerative disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, regulating the malfunctions of this system using phytocannabinoids (the main constituents of the plant cannabis) or synthetic cannabinoids represents potential treatments for brain diseases and disorders and currently attracts great interest in the medical community.
At the same time, the correlation between the ECS and physical activity is also well-documented. For instance, research shows that physical activities lead to higher endocannabinoid concentrations in body fluid and increased type 1 cannabinoid receptor level in the brain.
However, is it possible that this triad – the endocannabinoid system, physical activities, and therapy for neurological and neurodegenerative conditions – is connected? Indeed. Recently, scientists documented several emerging evidences in both lab animal models and human subjects in clinical studies that activation of the ECS by physical activities is correlated with many positive effects on the brain. Some examples include reduced depressive symptoms, improved memory and reduced inflammation of the brain. These findings, altogether, suggest that physical activities can serve as a supplement to traditional medication-based approaches to regulating the endocannabinoid system and treating conditions of the brain