Exercise fights anxiety, depression: Study

Exercise not only helps keep body fit but also works as a “magic drug” for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, according to a new research.

Researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas say, mental health care providers should more widely prescribe exercise as a treatment to its patients since “individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger”.

“Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health,” said Jasper Smits, Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at the University.

“The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be,” said the researcher who drew the conclusion after analysing the results of numerous published studies.

Dr. Smits and his team based their finding on an analysis of dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews related to exercise and mental health.

Their review demonstrated the efficacy of exercise programs in reducing depression and anxiety.

Pointing out that traditional treatments of cognitive behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy don’t reach everyone, Dr. Smits said: “Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments”.

“It supplements the traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged,” Dr. Smits told the annual conference of Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

He said: “Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviours”.

“For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing,” he added.

After patients have passed a health assessment, they should work up to the public health dose, which is 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, he suggested.

“After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy - and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise,” he added.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:19:45 AM |

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