Exercise is a magic drug for those with depression and anxiety disorders, and should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers, says new research.
"Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger," says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Programme at Southern Methodist University at Dallas.
"Exercise appears to affect, like an anti-depressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviours.
"For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing," Smits added.
Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, based their finding on an analysis of dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews related to exercise and mental health, including the authors' own meta-analysis.
The researchers' review demonstrated the efficacy of exercise programmes in reducing depression and anxiety.
"Exercise can fill the gap for people who can't receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don't want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments," a Methodist university statement quoted Smits as saying.
The researchers presented their findings at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.