Reduce Your Anxiety By
20 Percent With Guees What?
In a study appearing in the Feb. 22 edition of the Archives of
Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed the results of 40 randomized
clinical trials involving nearly 3,000 patients with a variety
of medical conditions. They found that, on average, patients who
exercised regularly reported a 20 percent reduction in anxiety
symptoms compared to those who did not exercise.
"Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that physical
activities such as walking or weight lifting may turn out to be
the best medicine that physicians can prescribe to help their
patients feel less anxious," said lead author Matthew Herring,
a doctoral student in the department of kinesiology, part of the
UGA College of Education.
Herring pointed out that while the role of exercise in alleviating
symptoms of depression has been well studied, the impact of regular
exercise on anxiety symptoms has received less attention. The
number of people living with chronic medical conditions is likely
to increase as the population ages, he added, underscoring the
need for a low-cost, effective treatment.
The researchers limited their analysis to randomized controlled
trials, which are the gold standard of clinical research, to ensure
that only the highest quality data were used. The patients in
the studies suffered from a variety of conditions, including heart
disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain from arthritis.
In 90 percent of the studies examined, the patients randomly assigned
to exercise had fewer anxiety symptoms, such as feelings of worry,
apprehension and nervousness, than the control group.
"We found that exercise seems to work with just about everybody
under most situations," said study co-author Pat O'Connor,
professor and co-director of the UGA Exercise Psychology Laboratory.
"Exercise even helps people who are not very anxious to begin
with become more calm."
Exercise sessions greater than 30 minutes were better at reducing
anxiety than sessions of less than 30 minutes, the researchers
found. But surprisingly, programs with a duration of between three
and twelve weeks appear to be more effective at reducing anxiety
than those lasting more than 12 weeks. The researchers noted that
study participants were less likely to stick with the longer exercise
programs, which suggests that better participation rates result
in greater reductions in anxiety.
"Because not all study participants completed every exercise
session, the effect of exercise on anxiety reported in our study
may be underestimated," said study co-author Rod Dishman,
also a professor of kinesiology. "Regardless, our work supports
the use of exercise to treat a variety of physical and mental
health conditions, with less risk of adverse events than medication."
March 1, 2010