Regular exercise cuts down patient anxiety 20 percent

February 23rd, 2010 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 23 (IANS) The anxiety that often accompanies a chronic illness can chip away at the quality of life and make patients less likely to follow their treatment plan. But regular exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety, says a new study.
Exercise sessions greater than 30 minutes were better at reducing anxiety than sessions of less than 30 minutes, researchers from the University of Georgia (U-G) found.

But surprisingly, programmes with a duration of between three and 12 weeks appear to be more effective at reducing anxiety than those lasting more than 12 weeks.

Researchers analysed the results of 40 randomised clinical trials involving nearly 3,000 patients with a variety of medical conditions.

They found that, on average, patients who exercised regularly reported a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to those who did not exercise.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that physical activities such as walking or weight lifting may turn out to be the best medicine that physicians can prescribe to help their patients feel less anxious,” said Matthew Herring, doctoral student in kinesiology, UG College of Education, who led the study.

Herring pointed out that while the role of exercise in alleviating symptoms of depression has been well studied, the impact of regular exercise on anxiety symptoms has received scant attention.

The number of people living with chronic medical conditions is likely to increase as the population ages, he added, underscoring the need for low-cost, effective treatment.

The patients in the studies suffered from a variety of conditions, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain from arthritis.

In 90 percent of the cases, the patients randomly assigned to exercise had fewer anxiety symptoms, such as feelings of worry, apprehension and nervousness, than the control group, says a UG release.

“We found that exercise seems to work with just about everybody under most situations,” said study co-author Pat O’Connor, professor and co-director of the UG-Atlanta Exercise Psychology Lab.

The study appeared in Monday’s edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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