LUND, Sweden — Anxiety disorders – which typically develop early in a person’s life – affect around one in 10 people and are twice as common in women compared to men. According to new research, regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing anxiety by almost 60 percent.
A team from Sweden says that one of the most common suggestions put forward as a way to improve well-being is to stay physically active, whether it be by walking or playing a team sport. While exercise is a promising strategy for the treatment of anxiety, study authors say there is little research into the impact of exercise dose, intensity, or physical fitness level on the risk of developing anxiety disorders.
The new study discovered that people who took part in the world’s largest long-distance cross-country ski race between 1989 and 2010 had a “significantly lower risk” of developing anxiety compared to non-skiers during the same period. The team examined data from almost 400,000 people in one of the largest ever epidemiology studies across both sexes.
“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. This association between a physically active lifestyle and a lower risk of anxiety was seen in both men and women,” says first author Martine Svensson of Lund University in a media release.