Strenuous exercise shown to relieve chronic anxiety

November 11, 2021
Strenuous exercise shown to relieve chronic anxiety

Sufferers of chronic anxiety – symptoms of which are irresponsive to standard treatment – might find relief from their symptoms through physical activity, according to researchers at the Swedish University of Gothenburg. Described as “one of the largest” studies of its kind to date, its participants diagnosed with an anxiety disorder were found to benefit from different forms of exercise – most reported reduced levels of anxiety by the end of the study.

For the study itself, nearly 290 participants undertook either moderate or strenuous exercise regimes over 12 weeks, guided by a physical therapist. The moderate sessions were designed to drive the participants’ heart rate up to 60% of its maximum, and the more intensive sessions designed to hit 75% of the participants’ maximum. These were confirmed with heart rate monitors and what is known as the Borg scale, an established measure of physical exertion.

In brief, 60-minute training sessions were held three times each week involving warmups, 45 minutes of combined aerobic and strength training, and finally a few minutes of cool downs and stretching.

Once the 12-week exercise programme had wrapped up, the researchers observed that chances of improvement in anxiety symptoms among those following the moderate exercise regime rose by a factor of 3.62 compared to a control group; for those following the strenuous exercise regime, this factor increased to 4.88.

The findings show how maintaining an active lifestyle is advantageous to those with chronic forms anxiety. Exercise programmes tailored to individual circumstances, designed around heart rate and physical exertion, could also offer specialised new forms of therapy.

“Doctors in primary care need treatments that are individualised, have few side effects, and are easy to prescribe,” said general practitioner Dr. Maria Åberg. “The model involving 12 weeks of physical training, regardless of intensity, represents an effective treatment that should be made available in primary health care more often for people with anxiety issues.”

Read: Research finds intense exercise right before bedtime detrimental to sleeping


Category: Education, Features

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