SEP 22, 2021 9:02 AM PDT

Regular Exercise Linked to Huge Reduction in Anxiety Risk

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Exercise is commonly touted as a good way to improve symptoms of depression. Researchers wanted to know more about whether exercise could help people reduce their risk of developing anxiety disorders, and while estimates vary widely, anxiety may affect as much as five to ten percent of the world's population at any given time.

Image credit: Pixabay

Scientists have recently completed a lengthy study conducted from 1989 to 2010 of people who participated in the largest long-distance cross-country ski race in the world, called Vasaloppet. The study, which was based on data from about 400,000 men and women, suggested that the participants had a significantly lower risk of developing an anxiety disorder compared to people that did not ski during that same time period. The research has been reported in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Incredibly, people who were most active had a far lower risk of anxiety than others, they had about a 60 percent reduction in their risk of getting an anxiety disorder over a period of 21 years, said study authors Martine Svensson, and Tomas Deierborg, of the Department of Experimental Medical Science at Lund University, Sweden.

“This association between a physically active lifestyle and a lower risk of anxiety was seen in both men and women.”

There was a difference between men and women, however. The performance of male skiers did not appear to have a significant influence on anxiety risk. But the risk of anxiety among the best performing women skiers was about double that of physically active women who performed at a lower level. Those top performers still had a far lower risk of anxiety compared to the general population, noted the researchers.

This is a very large study for one that is focused on anxiety and not depression or other mental illness, they added. The findings will also have to be confirmed with additional research. There may be many factors including genetics and personality that can't be investigated in such a huge group.

“Our results suggest that the relation between symptoms of anxiety and exercise behavior may not be linear,” Svensson added. “Studies investigating the driving factors behind these differences between men and women when it comes to extreme exercise behaviors and how it affects the development of anxiety are needed.”

The researchers also noted that nature may also play a role, since cross-country skiers spend more time outdoors in addition to getting more exercise.

“Studies focusing on specific sports may find slightly different results and magnitudes of the associations, but this is most likely due to other important factors that affect mental health and which you cannot easily control in research analysis,” noted the researchers.

Sources: Frontiers, Frontiers in Psychiatry

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 03, 2021
Health & Medicine
Why Did a Town Start Putting People on Trial for Witchcraft?
OCT 03, 2021
Why Did a Town Start Putting People on Trial for Witchcraft?
In early 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris began to writhe, roar, contort, ...
OCT 05, 2021
Neuroscience
Idle Thoughts Indicate Mental Health Status
OCT 05, 2021
Idle Thoughts Indicate Mental Health Status
What you think about during idle time may contain essential indicators of your mental health. The corresponding study wa ...
OCT 15, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Oxytocin Therapy Shows No Benefit for Autistic Children
OCT 15, 2021
Oxytocin Therapy Shows No Benefit for Autistic Children
Intranasal oxytocin therapy does not benefit autistic children and adolescents. The corresponding study was published in ...
OCT 15, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Genes Seem to Significantly Impact the Results We Get From Exercise
OCT 15, 2021
Genes Seem to Significantly Impact the Results We Get From Exercise
Individual health is shaped by many different factors, including the sequences and expression levels of genes, the makeu ...
OCT 21, 2021
Neuroscience
Phone-based Talk Therapy Eases Arthritis-related Insomnia
OCT 21, 2021
Phone-based Talk Therapy Eases Arthritis-related Insomnia
Talk therapy practice known as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) conducted over the phone helps older adults with arthrit ...
OCT 21, 2021
Neuroscience
Do Childhood Psychotic-Like Experiences and Genetics Forecast Adult Psychosis?
OCT 21, 2021
Do Childhood Psychotic-Like Experiences and Genetics Forecast Adult Psychosis?
Researchers look to children experiencing psychotic-like experiences and genetics for leads to adult psychosis
Loading Comments...