A meta-analysis published in the journal Depression and Anxiety associates high levels of physical activity with 26% lower rates of new onset of anxiety disorder or symptoms.
Physical activity (PA) benefits mood, sleep, and cognition. Several studies have shown that PA protects against the development of anxiety and is useful as an anxiety treatment. The authors have conducted the first-ever meta-analysis on PA’s protective effects.
The literature showing strong benefits from exercise for mental health and brain function continues to grow. Because the subgroup analyses included few studies, the findings that limited PA’s effects to agoraphobia and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to the continents of Europe and Asia need to be replicated in further research.
Intensity of PA might be more important than frequency, although this also needs replication. Potential mechanisms for PA’s effects include neuroprotection (increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor), anti-inflammatory or antioxidative effects, or increases in self-efficacy.