Exercise Lowers Risk Of Anxiety By Over 60%, New Research Shows

Exercise Lowers Risk Of Anxiety By Over 60%, New Research Shows
A lot of athletes will tell you their mental health suffers when they’re not training.

The benefits to the mind are major reasons for a lot of people to make sport a big part of their lives. They notice a greater sense of calm if they’ve done a workout, or that they can focus on tasks more easily after leaving the gym.

Those mental health benefits have never been more important, with cases of depression and anxiety having sky-rocketed since the pandemic. As much as 10% of the world’s population is affected by an anxiety disorder

Now, a huge new study released in September has proven that regular exercise can reduce your likelihood of being diagnosed with anxiety by 60%.

The Swedish study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry , followed 395,369 people for up to 21 years, looking specifically at cross-country skiers.

“We investigated how many of these skiers were diagnosed with anxiety disorders compared to people of the same sex and age in the general population,” Martina Svensson, one of the authors of the study told The Daily Mail .

“The exact number depends on the statistical model, whether or not we adjust for sex, age and education level. Mainly, it is around 58 to 62%, depending on the model.”

This is significant because they looked at such a massive number of people over such a long period of time, making the results hard to disagree with.

Interestingly for athletes, they also looked at whether there were differences in the rate of anxiety in high-performing skiers and low-performing skiers.

All the skiers had participated in a Swedish race called Vasaloppet, the oldest and biggest long-distance cross-country ski race in the world. Their ability was ranked by the time it took to complete the race.

“We were surprised to see that physically high-performing women had almost a doubled risk of developing anxiety compared to lower-performing women,” Svensson said.

“However, the total risk of getting anxiety among these high-performing women was still lower compared to the more physically inactive women in the general population.”

This shows the differences in the kind of athlete you are can have an effect on anxiety levels. Interestingly, previous research has shown those competing in individual sports are more likely to be anxious than those in team sports [https://builtforathletes.com/blogs/news/research-suggests-individual-sport-athletes-more-likely-to-suffer-anxiety-or-depression-than-team-sport-athletes].

These differences weren’t seen when comparing high-performing men with lower performers though.

The study gives us concrete evidence that long-term regular exercise does support our mental health.

Although it only looked at cross-country skiers, the authors believe the results are applicable to all forms of exercise. They say they don’t know exactly why it helps keep anxiety at bay, but there’s no question that it does.