"Results showed that patients were more likely to adhere to, or stick with, shorter duration exercise programs, which might account for larger anxiety reductions compared to longer program durations," Herring said. "Stated another way, better participation rates likely will result in greater anxiety reductions."
Tracie Rogers, a sport and exercise psychologist and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, said that regular physical activity doesn't just make us feel better but has "measurable results in reducing anxiety."
"Exercise not only influences your physical health for the better but also your mental health," she said.
And people already getting treatment for anxiety would still benefit from exercise, she said. "For people who are dealing with clinical anxiety who are in therapy or on anti-anxiety medication, it is extremely beneficial for them to be involved in an exercise program," Rogers said. "It has real anxiety-reducing effects, just like those drugs do."
Unwanted side effects keep some people from taking anxiety medications, Rogers said. "Exercise is a real good alternative to that," she said.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on anxiety.
SOURCES: Matthew Herring, doctoral student, department of kinesiology, College of Education, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.; Tracie Rogers, Ph.D., sport and exercise psychologist, and assistant professor, Arizona School of Health Sciences, Mesa, Ariz.; Feb. 22, 2010, Archives of Internal Medicine
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