Exercise can help anxiety and mild depression

Researchers from the University of Bristol and Cardiff University, led by Dr Nicola J. Wiles, used data on 1,158 middle-aged men in Caerphilly, South Wales, who were followed for ten years from 1989 to see whther they could establish a link between leisure time and work-related physical activity and anxiety/depression.

The men filled in questionnaires (the Minnesota Leisure Time Physical Activity Questionnaire) about the amount of physical activity involved in their work and leisure time at the start of the study, and they completed questionnaires (General Health Questionnaire) about anxiety and depression three times over the 10 year follow up.

They found that the men who participated in any heavy-intensity leisure-time activity (like running or playing football) were slightly, but significantly, less likely to have depression or anxiety over the next 5 years compared with less active men (although this effect had worn off at the 10-year mark) but that intense physical activity at work made no difference.

Dr Wiles suggested both that not only does exercise produces chemicals in the brain that affect mood but that it may have an indirect impact through enhanced body image and self-esteem.

"Physical Activity and Common Mental Disorder: Results from the Caerphilly Study." Nicola J. Wiles, Anne M. Haase, John Gallacher, Debbie A. Lawlor, and Glyn Lewis.
Am. J. Epidemiol. 2007 165: 946-954 doi:10.1093/aje/kwk070


In an attempt to encourage patients to use exercise therapeutically, two family doctors from the University of Michigan Health System, Caroline Richardson and Thomas Schwenk, list practical tips for primary care clinicians in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes.

They suggest doctors write prescriptions for the type and duration of exercise their patients should undertake such as:
• Take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break.
• Organise a walk with friends or family members at weekends.
• Walk on a treadmill while watching your favourite TV programme.
• Walk to work, or park a mile away and walk in when the weather is nice.
• Work out at home with exercise DVDs.
• Walk inside at a local mall, many of which open early for community walking clubs.
• School district swimming pools also may offer community hours.
• Explore the cost and availability of private and community-based recreation facilities.
• Find a safe building, perhaps at work, with stairwells or longer hallways that is available for lunchtime walks.


More research on exercise

First Published in November 2009

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