Working out reduces stress and anxiety, study says

A study shows that a reasonable amount of exercise could combat stress and anxiety.

A study recently published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that a reasonable amount of exercise could combat stress and anxiety.

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For this research, scientists from the University of Maryland School of Public Health asked college-aged survey subjects to either cycle for 30 minutes or relax for the same amount of time. Fifteen minutes later, they were shown pictures designed to please the senses, upset them, or have no effect. Participants' anxiety levels were gauged with a method from the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory before and after the cycling, as well as following the picture viewing. The group who cycled did not experience an increase in stress after the picture viewing, as opposed to the group that relaxed, whose stress rose to where it had been before the start of the experiment.

"While it is well-known that exercise improves mood, among other benefits, not as much is known about the potency of exercise's impact on emotional state and whether these positive effects endure when we're faced with everyday stressors once we leave the gym," said assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, J. Carson Smith.

More evidence that exercise can improve mood

The new University of Maryland study is by no means the first instance of medical researchers determining that exercise improves mood. Harvard Medical School came to similar conclusions in a 2011 study on the potentially soothing effects of exercise.

Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical institution, states the link between combating anxiety and depression and exercise hasn't been definitively explained. However, some evidence shows that working out releases neurotransmitters called endorphins - what the clinic describes as "feel-good brain chemicals" - while raising body temperature. Exercise can also improve an individual's confidence, social skills and coping abilities, the clinic states.

The mental health social network PsychCentral lists a handful of other ways to cut down on anxiety, including focusing on a calming mental image, not worrying excessively about the opinions of others, and not focusing on more than one problem at a time.