News & Insights 14 September 2021

Keep active to feel less anxious

Anxiety disorders are estimated to affect around 10% of the world’s population. Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias. All of these conditions are chronic and range in their level of severity and can be debilitating for the individual.

It is widely recognised that physical activity can help manage symptoms of anxiety, but until recently there was little to no research on preventing the development of these disorders. A new study, based on data from almost 400,000 people in one of the largest ever population-wide epidemiology studies across both sexes, found that leading an active lifestyle significantly reduces the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Although anxiety disorders have been found to be twice as common in women than men. The new study showed that physical activity lowers the risk of developing anxiety disorders in both sexes. That means everyone can benefit by leading a physically active lifestyle.

“We found that the group with a more physically active lifestyle had an almost 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders over a follow-up period of up to 21 years.”

The mechanisms behind this are not entirely clear, however, there is evidence that regular physical activity has many benefits useful for treating anxiety disorders. A meta-analysis found that people with anxiety disorders who had high physical activity levels experienced fewer symptoms than those who reported low physical activity.

This can be explained through the physiological and psychological benefits physical activity. Regular physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins, acting as a mood booster. It also reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. It encourages neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to adapt to changes in the environment, helping you to cope better with stressful events. Psychologically, meeting your goals, even small ones, can boost self-confidence leading to fewer anxious thoughts. Physical activity can serve as a distraction from negative thoughts and allows an opportunity for socialising. Furthermore, being among nature has been shown to have calming effects, so being active outdoors provides additional benefits.

It is clear that there are a variety of factors that provide benefit to our mental health, making it beneficial to incorporate movement into our everyday lives. Importantly, there is no one approach that will not work for everyone; you can explore what works for you. Whether you prefer short bursts of activity, or simply getting out into the fresh air. At KiActiv®, we work with our clients to explore what makes them feel the best, with no prescriptions or pressure to do certain activities. Whether you are a sufferer of anxiety or you want to prevent it in the future, KiActiv® can help you find the best ways to be physically active, tailored directly to you.

The KiActiv® Team