According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults 18 and older had an anxiety disorder in the past year. Anxiety disorders were higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%). An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.
There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders and will vary by the objects or situations that induce them. However, the features of excessive anxiety and related behavioral disturbances are similar. Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. Symptoms include: distress, nausea, shortness of breath, bowel pattern changes, excessive perspiration, frequent laughing or crying, restlessness, and is often associated with depression. While there are many types and degrees of anxiety and there is no substitute for medical and psychological care, there are some simple and basic tools to help manage the problem…daily exercise is one easy, affordable and accessible suggestion for most. Multiple studies have discussed the incidence of unhealthy self management of anxiety, including the use of alcohol and recreational drugs.
Last week, I presented coping tips for the management of anxiety. In this column, I will discuss one of the most understated benefits of exercise – mental health! Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “runner’s high.” This exercise euphoria is not limited to runners alone, but all who engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience high energy, positive attitude and mental wellness.
Physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, is a scientifically proven useful tool for preventing and easing anxiety and depression symptoms. Studies in the British Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Exercise and Sports Science found that anxiety and depression scores were significantly reduced in groups that engaged in aerobic running, jogging or walking programs, 30-45 minutes 3-5 days per week for 10-12 weeks, when compared to a control group and a psychotherapy counseling group.
According to research reported in sports medicine journals, exercise reduces anxiety and depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically).
Psychological or Mental Benefits of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression:
Physiological or Physical Benefits of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression:
Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
SOURCES: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC); National Institutes of Health (NIH); The American Journal of Sports Medicine
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Paul's articles, check out our exercise forum!