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Moving to beat anxiety: epidemiology and therapeutic issues with physical activity for anxiety

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-08-22, 10:20 authored by Aaron Kandola, Davy Vancampfort, Matthew P. Herring, Amanda Rebar, Mats Hallgren, Joseph Firth, Brendon Stubbs
Purpose of Review The purpose of this paper was to provide a comprehensive narrative review of the relationship between physical activity (PA) and anxiety and the rationale for including it as a treatment option for anxiety disorders. Several gaps in the literature are highlighted alongside recommendations for future research. Recent Findings PA in the general population has established efficacy in preventing and managing cardiovascular disease and improving wellbeing. Recent epidemiological data further suggests that people who are more active may be less likely to have anxiety disorders. In addition, evidence from systematic reviews of randomised control trials suggests that exercise training, a subset of PA, can reduce symptoms in anxiety and stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia and panic disorder. Summary Anxiety disorders are common, burdensome and costly to individuals and wider society. In addition to the profound negative impact on individuals’ wellbeing and functioning, they are associated with worsened physical health, including a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and premature mortality. Although pharmacotherapy and psychological interventions are helpful for many, these treatment approaches are not effective for everyone and are insufficient to address common physical health complications, such as the elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Given the combined anxiolytic and physical health benefits of increased activity, PA presents a promising additional treatment option for people with anxiety disorders. However, there remain key gaps in the literature regarding the mechanisms underlying the effects of PA, optimal PA protocols, methods of improving adherence and the importance of physical fitness. These must be addressed for PA to be successfully implemented in mental health services.



Current Psychiatry Reports;20:63





Other Funding information

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)



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