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Mountains and the body
Transcript of Mountains and the body
Being in the mountains generally involves some form of physical exertion, and physical activity plays a strong role in triggering neurotransmitters that are very beneficial to the body and mind.
The world around us can have dramatic effects on our health. When we enter the mountains we are generally experiencing higher altitudes, less pollution, and the way that our minds and bodies react to different colours.
Since man's beginnings mountains have been worshiped as places of healing and tranquility, as well as places to fear. This view of mountains is due to the effects that mountains have on the body and on the mind. This can be explored through the study of neurotransmitters and natural environments.
Dopamine is a fairly common neurotransmitter.
It is widely recognized as "the good feeling" transmitter, and it is responsible for the calming and excitement that come from tobacco and alcohol. It's benefits to the body are wide spread.
The following neurotransmitters are all released by exercise, and it is well known that exercise is very beneficial to the body. It benefits the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems. Over-training can have negative effects on all of the above systems; however, in most cases all parts of the body can be improved by all forms of exercise.
Parkinson's Disease is disease which is characterized by a continuous loss of neurons within the brain, which leads to a loss of dopamine. To combat the symptoms of this disease synthetic dopamine is administered. However, it has been found that equal results can be achieved through exercise, the natural release of dopamine. This occurs because exercise triggers dopamine receptors. (Steiner et al.)
Synthetic dopamine is used as a treatment
for heart attacks (Preidt). Naturally released
dopamine can have the same benefits to
the heart; however, those with pre-existing
heart problems have the potential to make
their condition worse through exercise.
Patients with Parkinson's Disease often face extreme gastrointestinal discomfort (Fornai et al.). Although the connectionis not fully understood, it is widely believed that this discomfort is due in part to the lack of dopamine. As a result, we can conclude that the release of dopamine through exercise has the potential to benefit the digestive system.
Recent studies have also found that the release of dopamine has the potential to slow cancer from progressing. It prevents the progression of red blood cells, and makes it harder for cancer cells to move between body systems. This is the first time that a natural chemical within the body has been found with the potential to fight cancer (Preidt).
Adrenaline comes to humans as we face the greatest moments of fear and challenge in our lives. It is an immense rush that stimulates muscles, rushes our heart rate, and speeds our decision making (Tust). It is easily found through almost any form of exercise; however, that done in the mountains presents an even greater amount due to the risks that are present. In the moment, adrenaline can be very beneficial, but it can pose some negative effects.
Adrenaline has the potential to be both positive and negative for mental health. The primary purpose of adrenaline is to prepare the body and mind for challenging situations, and quick decision making. It does this by increasing blood flow and glucose to the brain, which allows it to perform better. The feeling of relief after adrenaline is released is also very beneficial, as it releases dopamine and endorphins. Adrenaline can also help to reduce cases of stress because the mind is more capable of resolving challenging situations. It has already faced high stress situations that end quickly and is better prepared (Tust).
Adrenaline's effects on the muscoskeletal system are very dramatic in the instant when adrenaline is released. The increase in heart rate allows more blood to travel to muscles, and adrenaline can numb pain. This allows to perform tasks that would appear superhuman in other situations. Adrenaline can also have longer term benefits on muscles because it controls their contractions, which is what triggers our bodies to grow stronger muscles. ("Epinephrine.")
The negative side to the release of adrenaline is that over time our bodies can reach a place where they are always prepared for a stressful situation, and therefore never able to relax (Tust). This leaves both the body and mind exhausted to a point where neither can function optimally.
Adrenaline "increases the speed and force of the heartbeat." This is vital in stressful situations because the muscles and mind require increased levels of blood to function at their best. In cases of cardiac arrest or anaphylaxis shock (extreme allergic reactions), adrenaline is administered to increase heart rate and narrow blood vessels (Peters). For stressful situations, the effects of adrenaline are undeniable beneficial; however, when these changes occur in people that will not react to them, the increase in heart rate can lead to heart attack.
The liver has an important role in the way that adrenaline affects our bodies because adrenaline breaks down glycogen into glucose for the brain to use. This is a reaction that occurs within the liver. ("Epinephrine.")
Studies have shown that adrenaline may contribute to weight loss. This occurs because the chemical reactions which occur during the release of adrenaline burn calories. So far, the only studies which have been successful were those that were paired with dietary restrictions. ("Epinephrine.")
Serotonin is an extremely important neurotransmitter that is attributed to happiness and is often administered as an antidepressant. It is also one of the neurotransmitters that is most affected by exercise. The release of serotonin tends to only affect the brain; however, there are a number of effects.
Serotonin is one of the most widely studied neurotransmitters in relation to exercise, and nearly every study has found that the release of serotonin through exercise can have dramatic positive effects on one's self-esteem, mood, and psychological health. Most studies have found that serotonin acts as a natural energy booster for people who are lethargic, and a relaxant for those who are unable to sleep ("Exercise Made Me Happy."). In clinical studies, exercise has had equal or better effects in treating depressions to the use of pharmaceuticals (Kalish).
Neuroplasticity is a term that reflects the brains ability adapt in a way that will make it better suited to it's environment. For a long time, the brain was viewed as a non-changing entity; however, it is now being seen that the mind does have the capability to adapt to situations. Exercise and the release of serotonin are now being attributed to playing key roles neuroplasticity. Improving neuroplasticity has the potential to benefit Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, migraines, depression, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia. (Hogan)
It has been found that the administration
of serotonin can aid in weight loss because it is effective in changing appetite to reduce caloric intake. In relation to exercise, our bodies often crave healthier foods because they provide us with better potential to recover and perform at a higher level. The studies involving the administration of serotonin found that appetite before and after meals with caloric restrictions was decreased, and that caloric intake while snacking was decreased. (Blundell et al.)
In cities and urban settings, we are constantly exposed to pollution. This can come from a variety of sources. In the mountains, we are removed from these pollutants, and there are many studies which indicate the ways that pollutants can be damaging to our health.
The environment that we surrounds ourselves in can greatly affect our moods and colour is the most noticeable component of any space. Many studies have been done for business to find out which colours prompt workers to be the most effective, creative, or relaxed.
To a certain level, altitude that can be reached by going into the mountains has many benefits to the human body and mind. Although it is not fully understood, it has been found that people who live in higher elevation climates are healthier and have longer life expectancies.
The colour palette within the mountains is one full of blues and greens. There are exceptions but for the most part these colours dominate the environment in the mountains. Both blue and green are very beneficial colours for mood. They help a person to relax, feel comfortable, improve focus, and decrease appetite. All of these factors can help our health and can be found simply by embracing the colour tones available in nature. ("Colour Power!")
Studies have been done that link a deterioration in mind function to increased levels of pollution and particulate matter within the air. A study done on senior woman showed that over a four year period those who had been exposed to the higher levels of particulate matter showed considerable deterioration in comparison to those who had not. The study also indicates that pollution leads to faster aging. It is unclear whether this deterioration is due to the effects that pollution has on cardiovascular health, or if it due to direct inflammation of the brain. (Goodwin)
A study done on Norwegian men shows that exposure to particulate matter and air pollution has negative effects on cardiovascular health. The study was done over a 15 year time period, and in that time it was found that those exposed to high pollutant levels are the second most affected by respiratory illness, second only to smokers. The respiratory illnesses include lung cancer and ischemic heart disease. Air pollution causes these health problems because, like smoking, it leads to a build of foreign chemicals within the lungs and air way. (Leren et al.)
A study of three villages in Greece clearly demonstrates the differences in life expectancy and cardiovascular health between those living at higher altitudes and those living lower. The study found that both men and women in one of the villages, 1000 meters higher than the other two, had considerably higher life expectancy, even though all three villages shared similar life styles. The link is not completely clear but it is believed that this may be due to the cardiovascular system needing to work more efficiently at the higher altitude. (Cresswell)
Many athletes train at higher altitudes because it forces their cardiovascular systems to work more efficiently due the lack of oxygen. For those with pre-existing health problems, the lack of oxygen can worsen the situation; however people in good shape can benefit from exposure to higher altitudes. On returning to lower altitudes the heart will have learned to pump more efficiently and is better able to provide oxygen to muscles for performance. ("Mountain Living Good For Heart Health.")
It is really no wonder why people see such interests and intrigue in the mountains. They are places that we can reach much better health in almost every body system, and particularly within the mind. Our bodies are connected to nature and it is in our benefit to keep that connection strong.
I focused my research on the neurotransmitters which are released by exercise; altitude; colours; and pollution, and the way that they affect the bodies. The neurotransmitters that I studies were dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline and they have wide-spread effects on the human body. The other factors also affect multiple body systems, and I will explore this in the physical environment section of my presentation.