Is It True That Physical Exercise Relieves Anxiety?

Is It True That Physical Exercise Relieves Anxiety?

A study claims that playing sports improves symptoms even when the disorder is chronic

Is It True That Physical Exercise Relieves Anxiety?
Is it true that physical exercise relieves anxiety?

Exercise for Anxiety

The various benefits that physical exercise has for people’s health are many and well known . Well, in addition to helping to stay healthy, it is also very beneficial for people’s mood.

Over the years, various studies have shown the benefits of physical activity for stress and even for mental illnesses such as depression .

Specifically, some previous studies have shown that practicing physical exercise improves the symptoms of people suffering from depression. However, until now there was no clear picture of how physical exercise affects people who suffer from anxiety.

Recently new research has shown that both moderate and strenuous exercise relieve anxiety symptoms, even when the disorder is chronic.

This study, which has been led by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, used the analysis of 286 patients with anxiety syndrome.

The mean age of the selected patients was 39 years and 70% were women. Furthermore, half of them had lived with anxiety for at least ten years.

Physical exercise reduced anxiety symptoms 

The researchers explain that the participants were assigned to group exercise sessions , moderate or strenuous, for 12 weeks. These groups exercised with 60-minute training sessions three times a week, under the direction of a physical therapist.

During the sessions, both cardiovascular and strength training were worked . In addition, the warm-up was also practiced, as well as the cool-down and stretching.

Once the data had been analyzed, it was observed that anxiety symptoms were significantly alleviated , even in cases where anxiety was a chronic condition.

Specifically, most of the individuals in the treatment groups went from a moderate to high initial level of anxiety to a low level of anxiety after the 12-week program.

On the other hand, in those who practiced low intensity exercise, the probability of improvement in anxiety symptoms was multiplied by 3.62. This same factor was multiplied by 4.88 in the patients who exercised more intensely.

“There was a significant trend in the intensity of improvement , that is, the more intensely they exercised, the more their anxiety symptoms improved,” explains Malin Henriksson, a general practitioner in the Halland region and lead author of the study.

A new avenue of study to treat anxiety

Currently, patients with anxiety receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychotropic drugs . However, these drugs often have side effects, and patients with anxiety disorders often do not respond to medical treatment. Also, long wait times for CBT can worsen the prognosis.

Now, this study opens a new avenue of research to act against depression. Maria Aberg, associate professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg and corresponding author of the study says that “primary care physicians need individualized treatments, with few side effects and easy to prescribe.”

For this reason, “the 12-week physical training model, regardless of its intensity, represents an effective treatment that should be available in primary care more often for people with anxiety problems, ” concludes Aberg.