Exercise is a godsend for those with anxiety disorders. That was the upshot of a pivotal new study evaluating how a prescribed regimen of regular physical activity impacted anxiety scores.
For this study 286 adults suffering from clinical anxiety syndromes, some for over a decade, were placed in one of three study groups. Group 1 subjects (the control group) were simply offered advice on physical activity. Group 2 subjects engaged in an hour of moderate intensity exercise three times a week for 12 weeks under the supervision of a trained exercise specialist. Group 3 subjects engaged in an hour of vigorous intensity exercise three times a week for 12 weeks under a trained exercise specialist. Those in groups 2 and 3 wore heart rate monitors to ensure they were performing at the prescribed moderate (60% of max heart rate) or vigorous (75% max heart rate) levels.
The results? After 12 weeks most of the study subjects in groups 2 and 3 significantly lowered their anxiety levels, going from a baseline level of moderate or severe anxiety to low anxiety. What’s more, although both levels of exercise were effective, there was a trend toward greater intensity being superior.
Past studies have shown a clear, beneficial relationship between exercise and depression, but studies on anxiety and exercise have been lacking. Given our current anxiety epidemic, this study is welcome news and offers a healthy, achievable, and side effect free prescription for effective treatment.
Journal of Affective Disorders, 2022; 297: 26 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.006