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Study: People at risk for panic buffered from stressor by high levels of physical activity
Date:7/12/2011

Regular exercise may be a useful strategy for helping prevent the development of panic and related disorders, a new study suggests.

People with an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomachaches and shortness of breath that accompany panic known as "high anxiety sensitivity" reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity, said researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of Vermont in Burlington.

"Anxiety sensitivity is an established risk factor for the development of panic and related disorders," said SMU psychologist Jasper Smits, 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."

Regular exercise as an alternative or complementary strategy to drugs and psychotherapy

There is already good evidence that exercise can be of help to people who suffer from depression and anxiety problems, say the researchers.

"We're not suggesting, 'Exercise instead of pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy," Smits said. "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."

Smits reported the findings in "The Interplay Between Physical Activity and Anxiety Sensitivity in Fearful Responding to Carbon Dioxide Challenge," an article that has published online and is in press with the scientific journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Co-authors include SMU psychology researchers Candyce Tart and David Rosenfield, and University of Vermont psychologist Michael Zvolensky.

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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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