Updated: Aug 24, 2022
According to research that was recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, regular exercise clearly reduces symptoms of anxiety.
In the randomized, controlled trial, the 286 patients were placed into one of three groups. The first group exercised with a at around 60% of their Maximum Heart Rate for 1 hour, three times per week, with a personal trainer.
The second group did the exact same, only at a higher level of intensity than the first group. Around 75% of their Maximum Heart Rate, again with a personal trainer.
The control group only received advise or recommendations to exercise, and were left to do so on their own.
Compared to the control group, participants in both of the exercise groups reported a significant decrease in their symptoms of anxiety. But...the group that exercised at a higher level of intensity (75% of their Max Heart Rate), reported an even more significant reduction.
Oh, and while symptoms of depression were not included in this study, the researchers noted a reduction in depressive symptoms in the two exercise groups when compared to the control group.
While the findings of this study are significant, and provide us with further proof that exercise is a valid, empirically-based form of mental health treatment, the other big take away is that when we exercise, we do need to do so at least at a moderate-level of intensity.
So, if you go out for a walk, make it a brisk walk. If you work out at a gym, make sure you maintain a good level of intensity while you're there. Find out what your Maximum Heart Rate is and stop and take your pulse on occasion while your exercising. If you're below 60% of your MHR, pick it up a bit. Try to keep it around 70% if you can. A leisurely stroll can be nice, but when it comes to improving your mental health, moving at a higher level of intensity is vitally important!