Exercise is a magic drug for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, and it should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers, according to researchers who analyzed the results of numerous published studies.
"Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health," says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be."
Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, based their finding on an analysis of dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews related to exercise and mental health, including the authors' meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and studies on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise. The researchers' review demonstrated the efficacy of exercise programs in reducing depression and anxiety.
The traditional treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy don't reach everyone who needs them, says Smits, an associate professor of psychology.
"Exercise can fill the gap for people who can't receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don't want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments," he says. "Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged."
The researchers presented their findings March 6 in Baltimore at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America. Their workshop was based on their therapist guide "Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders," with accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009). For links to more information see www.smuresearch.com.
"Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and
|Contact: Kim Cobb|
Southern Methodist University