The last couple years have been difficult to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strains on supply chains, financial markets, and people’s mental health worldwide. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States affecting more than 40 million adults or roughly 18.1% (adaa.org, n.d.). While most anxiety disorders are traditionally treated with therapy and prescription medication, there is growing evidence to suggest that moderate to intense exercise a few times a week can alleviate symptoms of anxiety even if it’s a chronic disorder.
The University of Gothenburg conducted a study involving 286 people with anxiety syndrome with half of those patients having lived with anxiety for at least 10 years (University of Gothenburg, 2021). The treatment groups were broken up into either a moderate group with a goal heart rate of 65% of their max or an intense exercise group with a goal heart rate of 75% of their max. The program was designed for 12 weeks with 60-minute sessions, 3 times per week for a total of 36 workouts.
At the end of the 12-week testing period, most individuals in the testing groups went from a baseline of moderate- high anxiety to low anxiety. Specifically, participants in the moderate intensity program saw their anxiety improve by a factor of 3.62 while members of the high intensity group saw their anxiety improve by a factor of 4.88 which is huge (University of Gothenburg, 2021).
Based on this data, it safe to assume that as exercise intensity increases, symptoms of anxiety decrease. Exercising just a few hours a week could potentially provide drastic and tangible relief in people who experience moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.
Mental health is an area of physical wellbeing that is often overlooked or brushed off as being minor but hopefully, as more of these types of studies come out, people can begin to become aware of their own mental state and take action to be able to live as healthy of a life as possible.
University of Gothenburg. "Anxiety effectively treated with exercise." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211109095348.htm>.