Exercise can do much more for anxiety, feelings of fear and depression than medicines. This is what emerges from a very recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by a group of Australian scientists from the University of South Australia, Adelaide (Singh et al, BJSM, 2023).
Anxiety and depression, a global problem
It is estimated that, globally, one in eight people have anxiety or depression. Scientists in the study we are discussing today report that, in Australia alone, one in five people have experienced a problem such as anxiety or depression in the past twelve months. The medicines available to treat these conditions are not always effective and often have serious side effects that lead the person to abandon the treatments. For this reason, science is constantly looking for natural remedies, without side effects, which can bring benefits in case of anxiety and depression. One of these natural remedies we have at hand, or rather at your foot, is a walk, or even a run, or, why not, a swim, as emerges from the research in question. But let's try to understand better.
Physical activity is better than medicines against anxiety and depression
Australian scientists were based on data collected from 1136 previous studies for a total of 128,119 participants, which makes the review one of the largest in the sector. What has emerged is that physical exercise shows an action 1.5 times more effective in counteracting anxiety, fear and depression than drugs. Benefits can be seen with physical activity lasting 12 weeks or less, demonstrating that physical activity can act quickly. Physical activity always brings mental well-being, but there are categories of people for which it demonstrates a particularly powerful action, such as women with postpartum depression, people diagnosed with kidney disease or HIV and healthy people with depression. As for the type of physical activity, every physical exercise has been shown to bring benefits, such as walking, a light run, a swim, pilates and yoga or sessions in the gym with weight lifting.
Moderate physical activity is therefore beneficial for mood and is able to counteract anxiety, fear and depression. The novelty that emerges from this study is the demonstration that physical exercise acts quickly, even in less than three months, and that the greatest benefits are observed precisely in those categories of people who need it most, such as people with chronic illnesses or those who are physically healthy but with depression.