Evidence has shown that exercise can help combat the symptoms of several mental health problems, including depression and stress. But a new study suggests that people who suffer from panic and high levels of anxiety may also benefit from regular, intense exercise. High anxiety sensitivity is categorized by high levels of fear and worry and is usually accompanied with physical symptoms such as dizziness, racing pulse and shortness of breath. “Anxiety sensitivity is an established risk factor for the development of panic and related disorders,” said psychologist Dr. Jasper Smits of Southern Methodist University, lead author on the research. “This study suggests that this risk factor may be less influential among persons who routinely engage in high levels of physical activity.” He added, “We’re not suggesting, ‘Exercise is a useful alternative, particularly for those without access to traditional treatments. Primary care physicians already prescribe exercise for general health, so exercise may have the advantage of helping reach more people in need of treatment for depression and anxiety.”
The new results show that this type of exercise may be a viable complement to other treatments targeted at reducing the symptoms of anxiety. “Exercise can be a powerful addition to the range of treatments for depression, anxiety and general stress,” said Otto. “And when people exercise to feel good, they are also taking the exact steps they need to benefit their general health.” In the study, the researchers gathered information from 145 participants to gauge their level of exercise and anxiety. They then inhaled a special mixture of air that induces symptoms of anxiety. The study revealed that those who regularly performed intense exercise had fewer symptoms after inhaling the air than their more sedentary counterparts. Although the results are limited, the researchers hope that this study will push more clinicians to emphasize the importance of physical activity for the treatment of mental health problems.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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