For women, exercise can reduce anxiety

For women, exercise can reduce anxiety

By Liz Lockhart

New research has been published which links a reduction in the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) to exercise.

GAD is a common condition in which excessive and uncontrollable worrying are typical symptoms. Other symptoms may include tiredness, irritability, poor quality of sleep and muscle tension.  The new research suggests that regular exercise can significantly reduce these symptoms.

Researchers from the University of Georgia assigned 30 sedentary women with GAD to either six weeks of strength or aerobic exercise training or to a control group.  The exercise training comprised of two sessions a week of either leg cycling exercise or weight training.  The women were aged from 18 – 37.

Psychologists then assessed the GAD symptoms of both groups but were unaware of which women were assigned to exercise and which were in a control group.

The researchers found that the symptoms of GAD were more likely to improve among the exercise group.  The greatest reduction in symptoms was found in the weight-lifting group.  All exercisers showed a notably significant reduction in symptoms of worrying whilst a large improvement was also found in other symptoms (tension, irritability, low energy and pain).

Matthew Herring, one of the researchers said ‘Our findings add to the growing body of evidence of the positive effects of exercise training on anxiety.’

He added ‘Our study is the first randomised controlled trial focused on the effects of exercise training among individuals diagnosed with GAD.  Given the prevalence of GAD and drawbacks of current treatments, including expense and potential negative side effects, our findings are particularly exciting, because they suggest that exercise training is a feasible, well-tolerated potential adjuvant therapy with low risk that can reduce the severity of signs and symptoms of GAD.’

‘Future research should confirm these findings with large trials and explore potential underlying mechanisms of exercise effects among individuals with GAD.’

The study is published online in the journal ‘Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics’.

Source: University of Georgia 

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