Physical activity and anxiety disorder – Is there a link? 5 tips to stay physically active&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • In simple terms, anxiety is the brain’s reaction to a stressful situation

  • Anxiety is often discarded as a natural emotion which may lead to aggravation of anxiety disorder

  • Some common symptoms of anxiety disorder include sweating, trembling, hyperventilation, and restlessness

New Delhi: The human brain has its unique way of responding to certain situations be it happy, stressful, or sad. Anxiety is one of the most common emotions encountered and is often a consequence of an alerted brain due to the emergence of a taxing or unprecedented event. While it’s natural to go through occasional spurs of anxiety, staying in a perpetual state of anxiety might be a matter of concern as it could be a sign of anxiety disorders. The mental condition that induces an overpowering sense of fear and anxiety is termed anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety and physical activity – The link

According to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry titled “Physical Activity Is Associated With Lower Long-Term Incidence of Anxiety in a Population-Based, Large-Scale Study”, it was found that the risk of developing anxiety disorders was significantly low among people who followed a physically active lifestyle as compared to those who did not. About 400,000 skiers of both sexes participated in the study. The key highlights of the study are as follows:

  • A 60 per cent reduced risk of developing anxiety disorder was witnessed among physically active people.
  • The lowered risk held true for both men and women.
  • No effect of performance level on the lowered risk of anxiety disorder was found among male skiers.
  • The risk of developing anxiety disorder was double among high performing female skiers as compared to low performing female skiers. 
  • The results may not be absolute as other factors contribute to anxiety and its symptoms.

Hear it from the experts 

Authors, Martine Svensson and Tomas Deierborg said, “We found that the group with a more physically active lifestyle had an almost 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders over a follow-up period of up to 21 years.” 

“Our results suggest that the relation between symptoms of anxiety and exercise behaviour may not be linear. Exercise behaviours and anxiety symptoms are likely to be affected by genetics, psychological factors, and personality traits, confounders that were not possible to investigate in our cohort. Studies investigating the driving factors behind these differences between men and women when it comes to extreme exercise behaviours and how it affects the development of anxiety are needed.”, Svensson added.

Expressing the need for further studies to validate results, the authors said, “We think this cohort of cross-country skiers is a good proxy for an active lifestyle, but there could also be a component of being more outdoors among skiers.”

“Studies focusing on specific sports may find slightly different results and magnitudes of the associations, but this is most likely due to other important factors that affect mental health and which you cannot easily control in research analysis.”, they added.

Tips for physical activity

Here are some effective tips that can promote physical activity:

  1. Involve family and friends into your exercise routine to improve motivation, ensure a way to stay consistent, and maximize workout results.
  2. Avoid indulging in alcohol or excessive caffeine consumption as it can damage the body clock causing the body to stay in a perpetual state of fatigue.
  3. Try to stay away from a sedentary lifestyle as it can become a harmful habit and lead to the development of mobility issues, weak bones and muscles, obesity, and overweight. 
  4. To avoid getting into an unhealthy lifestyle due to staying at home, scout for home-friendly exercises such as yoga and low-intensity Pilates and cardio. 
  5. To stay physically active in a fun way, you can choose among the variety of outdoor sports available and play with your family and friends. 

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.