Exercise better than medicine for anxiety
Scientists from the University of Georgia have found that patients with chronic illness can reduce anxiety with regular exercise. Exercise was found to reduce anxiety by twenty percent and is much safer than medications that carry risk of side effects of sedation and addiction. According to the researchers, exercise might be the best prescription a physician can offer a patient for anxiety.
Exercise was studied as a low cost and effective anxiety treatment that has received little attention. The number of individuals living with chronic medical conditions is expected to increase with an aging population, making the findings important for finding ways to maintain quality of life in late adulthood.
An analysis of high quality studies was carried out to find that regular exercise reduces anxiety. In all instances of chronic illness, patients who exercised consistently were less nervous. Patients with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer benefited from less anxiety in ninety percent of the trials, compared to patients not assigned an exercise program.
"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."
Patients who exercised consistently but for shorter duration had the highest rates of compliance and best response to feeling less nervous. The study showed that programs longer than twelve weeks were less effective because patients tended to drop out of the programs. Thirty minute sessions of exercise were better for reducing anxiety compared to less than 30 minutes.
"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. "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."
The findings show that exercise reduces anxiety for everybody - even patients who were not nervous reported feeling calmer. Exercise reduced anxiety by twenty percent; found in an analysis of 40 randomized clinical trials that included 3,000 patients with a variety of medical conditions.