Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing anxiety

Stockholm [Sweden]September 11 (ANI): A new study has shown that those who exercise regularly can reduce the risk of developing anxiety by almost 60 percent.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

A quick online search for ways to improve our mental health often comes with a variety of results. One of the most common suggestions presented as a step towards achieving well-being – and preventing future problems – is to exercise, whether it is a walk or a team sport.

Anxiety disorders – which usually develop early in a person’s life – are estimated to affect about 10 percent of the world’s population and have been shown to be twice as common in women as in men. And while exercise is presented as a promising strategy for treating anxiety, little is known about the effect of exercise dose, intensity or physical fitness on the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

To answer this question, researchers in Sweden have shown that those who participated in the world’s largest cross-country ski race (Vasaloppet) between 1989 and 2010 had a “significantly lower risk” of developing anxiety compared to non-skiers during the same period.

The study is based on data from almost 400,000 people in one of the largest epidemiological studies ever on the entire population of both sexes.

“We found that the group with a more physically active lifestyle had an almost 60 percent lower risk of developing anxiety disorders during a follow-up period of up to 21 years,” says the magazine’s first author, Martine Svensson, and her colleague and lead investigator, Tomas Deierborg, at Department of Experimental Medical Science at Lund University, Sweden.

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

However, the authors found a noticeable difference in training level and the risk of developing anxiety between male and female skiers.

While a male rider’s physical performance did not appear to affect the risk of developing anxiety, the highest performing group of female skiers had almost twice the risk of developing anxiety disorders compared to the group that was physically active at a lower performance level.

“More importantly,” they said, “the overall risk of developing anxiety among high-performing women was still lower compared to the more physically inactive women in the general population.”

These results cover relatively unknown territory for scientific research, according to the researchers, as most previous studies focused on depression or mental illness as opposed to specifically diagnosed anxiety disorders.

Some of the largest studies looking at this topic also included only men, were much smaller in the sample, and had either limited or no follow-up data to track the long-term effects of physical activity on mental health.

The surprising discovery of a link between physical performance and the risk of anxiety disorders in women also emphasized the scientific significance of these findings for follow-up research.

“Our results suggest that the relationship between symptoms of anxiety and exercise behavior may not be linear,” says Svensson.

“Exercise behaviors and anxiety symptoms are likely to be affected by genetics, psychological factors and personality traits, confusions that were not possible to investigate in our cohort. Studies examine the driving factors behind these differences between men and women in extreme exercise. Behaviors and how it affects the development of anxiety is needed, ”added Svensson.

They added that randomized intervention studies, as well as long-term objective measurements of physical activity in prospective studies, are also needed to assess the validity and causality of the compound they reported. But does this mean that skiing in particular can play an important role in keeping anxiety in check, unlike any other form of exercise? Not so, said Svensson and Deierborg, given that previous studies have also shown the benefits of keeping fit in our mental health.

“We think this cohort of cross-country skiers is a good proxy for an active lifestyle, but it can also be part of being more outdoors among skiers,” they said.

Studies that focus on specific sports can find slightly different results and scopes of the associations, but this is probably due to other important factors that affect mental health and which can not be easily controlled in research analysis, according to the researchers. (ANI)

Source: sn.dk


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