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Just In Time for Final Exams….A Quick, Easy Fix for Anxiety

Posted Mar 01 2010 8:46pm

Today was the beginning of week 9 for us dinosaurs still on the quarter system, and you can feel the growing tension as finals week approaches. Everybody could use some anti-anxiety advice right about now. So a recent article about exercise and anxiety caught my attention.

While I typically bring up the issue of exercise in my discussions of depression, I usually do not discuss it in the context of depression’s relatives, the anxiety disorders. However, in a large meta-analysis of over 40 studies and 3000 participants, a University of Georgia team reported that exercise appears to have a very beneficial role in reducing anxiety [1].

What I especially liked about this analysis is that the researchers used real randomized experiments, not correlational studies. It would be too easy to say that anxiety is lowest among exercising adults, but not be able to comment on the causal nature of exercise in these cases. Instead, these experimental studies showed that exercise does in fact reduce anxiety an average of 20 percent in patients with a variety of symptoms, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and chronic arthritis pain.

As the authors point out, exercise is about as low-cost as a “medical” treatment can get. I find it interesting to see how the current discussion of health care costs has spawned a whole new interest in low-cost and preventive approaches. Wellness has always been preferable to having to fix something, and it’s nice to see the medical community go this route.

1.  Matthew P. Herring; Patrick J. O’Connor; Rodney K. Dishman
The Effect of Exercise Training on Anxiety Symptoms Among Patients: A Systematic Review
Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(4):321-331.  

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