Exercise Eases Anxiety in Chronically Ill People
People With Chronic Illnesses Who Exercise Regularly Report About a 20% Reduction in Anxiety Symptoms, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 22, 2010 -- Regular exercise may provide an unexpected benefit for
people who have chronic illnesses like heart disease and arthritis.
A new study shows that regular exercise relieves anxiety in chronically ill
people and may help improve their quality of life.
Researchers say this anxiety relief is in addition to other proven general
health and well-being benefits of regular 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," researcher
Matthew Herring, a doctoral student in the department of kinesiology at the
University of Georgia, says in a news release.
Researchers say that anxiety symptoms and disorders are common in people
with chronic illnesses and can have a negative effect on health because anxious
people are less likely to follow prescribed treatments.
Anxiety Relief From Exercise
In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
researchers reviewed 40 studies on the effects of exercise in people with
chronic illnesses. The studies were published from 1995 to 2007 and involved
nearly 3,000 people. The participants in the studies suffered from a variety of
chronic illnesses, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and
The results showed that people with chronic illnesses who exercised
regularly reported about a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms, compared to those
who did not exercise.
Researchers found that in 90% of the studies analyzed, people with chronic
illnesses who exercised regularly had fewer symptoms of anxiety, such as
feelings of worry, apprehension, and nervousness, than people who did not
The study also showed that regular exercise sessions longer than 30 minutes
were better at providing relief from anxiety than sessions shorter than 30
But the duration of the exercise program seemed to have the opposite effect.
Exercise programs that lasted 3-12 weeks appeared to provide better anxiety
relief than programs lasting longer than 12 weeks. Researchers say this may be
because people find it harder to stick with a longer exercise program.
"Because not all study participants completed every exercise session, the
effect of exercise on anxiety reported in our study may be underestimated,"
co-author Rod Dishman, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of
Georgia, Athens, says in the release. "Regardless, our work supports the use of
exercise to treat a variety of physical and mental health conditions, with less
risk of adverse events than medication."