The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and is responsive to acute exercise in healthy adults.
Purpose: We aimed to describe acute changes in serum eCB across a prescribed moderate (MOD) and a self-selected/preferred (PREF) intensity exercise session in women with major depressive disorder (MDD) and determine relationships between changes in eCB and mood states.
Methods: Women with MDD (n = 17) exercised in separate sessions for 20 min on a cycle ergometer at both MOD or PREF in a within-subjects design. Blood was drawn before and within 10 min after exercise. Serum concentrations of eCB (anandamide [AEA], 2-arachidonoylglycerol) and related lipids (palmitoylethanolamine, oleoylethanolamine, 2-oleoylglycerol) were quantified using stable isotope-dilution, liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry. The profile of mood states and state-trait anxiety inventory (state only) were completed before, 10 min and 30 min postexercise.
Results: Significant elevations in AEA (P = 0.013) and oleoylethanolamine (P = 0.024) occurred for MOD (moderate effect sizes: Cohen's d = 0.58 and 0.41, respectively). Significant (P < 0.05) moderate negative associations existed between changes in AEA and mood states for MOD at 10 min (depression, confusion, fatigue, total mood disturbance [TMD] and state anxiety) and 30 min postexercise (confusion, TMD and state anxiety). Significant (P < 0.05) moderate negative associations existed between 2-arachidonoylglycerol and mood states at 10 min (depression and confusion) and 30 min postexercise (confusion and TMD). Changes in eCB or related lipids or eCB-mood relationships were not found for PREF.
Conclusion: Given the broad, moderate-strength relationships between improvements in mood states and eCB increases after MOD, it is plausible that the eCB system contributes to the mood-enhancing effects of prescribed acute exercise in MDD. Alternative mechanisms are likely involved in the positive mood state effects of preferred exercise.