Exercise is the most effective treatment for anxiety and depression

And there is a lot of research to back this up – a recently published review of nearly 100 meta-analyses of over 1,000 randomised controlled trials including over 100,000 participants.

According to the study, all forms of exercise were effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations.

That’s huge. It means that whether you are healthy or suffer from mental and/or physical health problems, exercise – in any form – can help you manage stress and improve your mood.

The study also teased out some interesting specifics from the data:

  • Moderate to high-intensity exercise was more effective than low-intensity exercise for depression and anxiety
  • Strength exercise was the most effective for depression
  • Yoga (and other mind-body exercise) was the most effective for anxiety
  • The greatest benefits were seen in people with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, individuals diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease, and healthy people
  • Shorter durations of exercise were more effective than longer durations (this likely reflects greater adherence to shorter durations)
  • Moderate frequency (4-5 sessions per week) was more effective than lower and higher frequency
  • The effect of exercise was comparable to – or slightly greater than – the effect of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy

The importance of these findings cannot be overstated. We all know that moving our bodies makes us feel better – but we forget how powerful it is in influencing our emotional health. This study is a strong reminder. And it may (I hope) start to change the way anxiety and depression are treated in the medical setting.

The key point here is this: Regardless of how you currently feel, exercise is the best way to improve how you feel. And even small amounts of any form of exercise will help.

It’s low cost (often completely free), it’s very safe, and it improves every other aspect of your health as well.

Isn’t it worth prioritising?

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