Mood Kept In Order With Exercise

Anxiety and stress can be handled over longer time with moderate exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It's been well established that muscles get stronger and the heart gets pumping with exercise. And as far as dealing with emotions, exercise continues to help people keep calm and collected.

Now, a new study has found that moderate exercise could help people deal with anxiety and stress over a long period of time after working out.

"Be active 30-minutes a day."

The study, led by Carson Smith, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland, looked at how 30-minutes of moderate-intensity cycling affect anxiety in a group of 37 healthy and physically active college students.

The participants were also tested while resting for 30-minutes on a separate day within the same week of completing the exercise portion.

During the cycling test, participants were able to adjust the resistance to keep at a level that felt 'somewhat hard' to them.

After the period of rest or exercise, researchers showed participants a set of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral photographs to raise their emotional stress, ranging from babies and animals to erotica, threat and mutilation.

"The set of photographic stimuli we used from the International Affective Picture System database was designed to simulate the range of emotional events you might experience in daily life," Dr. Smith said in a press release.

Although the study is small, Smith measured the stress levels in each of the participants using a 20-question survey from the State-Trait Anxiety inventory.

Stress was measured before testing, 15-minutes after the rest or exercise period and after showing them the photographs.

They found that anxiety significantly decreased after exercising and resting.

But after viewing the emotional pictures, anxiety increases after the seated period but stayed low after exercise.

"We found that exercise helps to buffer the effects of emotional exposure," Dr. Smith said.

"If you exercise, you'll not only reduce your anxiety, but you'll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events."

He notes several limitations with his study, including that it was unclear which of the emotional photographs and at what point in the study did the photographs affect participants the most.

Also, sitting on a bike during the resting portion versus sitting in a more comfortable chair or position as previous studies have done may have affected results.

And finally, it is unknown whether his findings would apply to people with anxiety or affective disorders or among less healthy or active individuals.

Smith received compensation as a consultant on the Women's Health Initiative Study, and from University of Wisconsin, NIH and University of Kansas.

The study was published online August 14 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 19, 2012
Last Updated:
September 22, 2012