Study: Exercise May Reduce Anxiety

 In Blog, Healthy Steps

Here at Rock Creek Sports Club, we’re constantly promoting all of the great effects that exercise can have on your brain and body — and now we have another one to add to the list! A new study shows exercise may protect against future emotional stress and anxiety.


Researchers from the University of Maryland recruited 37, healthy and physically active young adults to compare the effects of exercise vs. seated rest on anxiety symptoms. To do this, the participants were asked to look 90 arousing pleasant and unpleasant and neutral pictures. On one day they did this after 30 minutes of seated rest. On another day, they looked at the photos after 30 minutes of cycling moderately hard. Their anxiety was measured both before and 15 minutes after each condition.

Researchers found that exercise and quiet rest were equally effective at reducing anxiety levels initially. However, once they were emotionally stimulated (by being shown the photographs for 20 minutes) the anxiety levels of those who had simply rested went back up to their initial levels, whereas those who had exercised maintained their reduced anxiety levels.

“While it is well-known that exercise improves mood, among other benefits, not as much is known about the potency of exercise’s impact on emotional state and whether these positive effects endure when we’re faced with everyday stressors once we leave the gym,” explains J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology. “We found that exercise helps to buffer the effects of emotional exposure. If you exercise, you’ll not only reduce your anxiety, but you’ll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events.”

Read the full study here.

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