older african american man doing pushups in the park, exercise

Q. In a recent column, a reader asked for natural alternatives for anxiety and stress that won’t produce side effects. I was disappointed that you didn’t mention exercise.

According to a review of the literature in the Handbook of Sport Psychology (2001), as little as 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic or anaerobic exercise reduces anxiety.

A. Thanks for the reminder of the benefit of exercise against anxiety. Daily exercise is also effective against depression.

There have been several studies of the effects of exercise for psychological disorders such as anxiety. An analysis of 40 studies shows that regular exercise can reduce anxiety significantly.

People with chronic health problems often feel anxious about their condition, but adding an anti-anxiety drug to numerous other medications may not be the best solution.

People with ailments such as heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia and arthritis all did better when exercising three times a week. The program should be tailored to the individuals situation and closely monitored by health professionals.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, February 22, 2010]

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  1. art

    I have been taking anti-anxiety medication for 20 years, I tried exercise first but that seemed to increase my anxiety. I do walk at least 3 xs a week. I have concluded that to try and beat this, what I call a neurological problem, without medication is nuts. I am sorry but I am not going to live my one life full of anxiety . I take 3/4 of one milligram per day and darn glad to have it. I have never increased the amount.

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