Exploring Exercise as an Avenue for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

Southern Methodist University, 6116 N. Central Expressway, Ste. 1100, Dallas, TX 75206, USA.
Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics (Impact Factor: 2.78). 08/2012; 12(8):1011-1022. DOI: 10.1586/ERN.12.73


Anxiety disorders constitute a significant public health problem. Current gold standard treatments are limited in their effectiveness, prompting the consideration of alternative approaches. In this review, we examine the evidence for exercise as an intervention for anxiety disorders. This evidence comes from population studies, studies of nonclinical anxiety reduction, as well as a limited number of studies of clinically anxious individuals. All of these studies provide converging evidence for consistent beneficial effects of exercise on anxiety, and are consistent with a variety of accounts of the mechanism of anxiety reduction with exercise. Further study of clinical populations is encouraged, as are studies of the mechanism of change of exercise interventions, which have the potential to help refine exercise intervention strategies. Likewise, studies that identify moderators of treatment efficacy will assist clinicians in deciding how and for whom to prescribe exercise.

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