Patients who are suffering from depression or anxiety disorders and who are not interested in traditional therapy options may be in luck. According to a recent analysis of numerous published studies, exercise may be a viable treatment alternative for those looking to improve their mental health.
Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and lead author of the review, found that patients who exercise on a regular basis report significantly lower levels of anger and stress as well as fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Specifically, Smits and his colleagues found that exercise positively affects neurotransmitter systems in the brain and reduces feelings of a racing heart or rapid breathing—two symptoms commonly reported by those suffering from severe 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," said Smits.
"Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged," he added.
For most patients, the researchers recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.