Healthy Living

Reducing Anxiety with Exercise

People who have chronic diseases, like heart conditions and arthritis may benefit from exercising, according to a study published in, Archives of Internal Medicine. Exercise may help to relieve anxiety and improve the quality of life in these people. Results of this study add to the growing body of evidence that supports that physical activity is the best medicine that can be recommended by physicians to reduce anxiety, says Matthew Herring, a doctoral student in the department of kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

Anxiety can negatively affect an individual's quality of life, and can interfere with normal daily routines.  Researchers reviewed 40 different studies that focused on the effects of physical activity on patients with chronic diseases, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and arthritis. The results showed a 30% reduction in anxiety levels in people who exercise regularly, compared to those who were inactive. 

The majority of the results in every study report a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, including feelings of worry, apprehension, and nervousness, in people who exercise regularly. These studies showed that activity sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes were most effective in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety. The  duration of the total exercise program had a unique result – those lasting for 12 weeks or longer were found to better the individual. 

Rod Dishman, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia, Athens, co-author of the study, believes that the positive effect reported in the study may actually be underestimated since many participants did not complete the exercise sessions of 12 weeks or longer. Despite this, the findings of the study support the fact that exercise can be used to treat a variety of mental and physical health conditions with less risk of adverse events.

Key Takeaways

  • Exercise can significantly help manage anxiety.
  • Regular workouts, can leave an individual feeling less anxious
  • Studies show that people who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression and anxiety 
  • Exercise releases endorphins which play a role in regulating mood and relaxing the mind.