Anxiety Disorders

For Anxiety, Higher-Intensity Exercise May Treat Symptoms Better

Exercise improves symptoms of anxiety in patients with anxiety disorders, according to the results of a recent study.

Included in this randomized controlled trial were 286 patients presenting to primary care practices in Sweden. Patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups for the 12-week study duration: (1) a low-intensity exercise program with cardiorespiratory and resistance training, (2) a high-intensity exercise program with cardiorespiratory and resistance training, or (3) a standard treatment nonexercise program. For both exercise groups, individuals attended a 60-minute training session with a physical therapist 3 times per week.

The results indicated that when compared with the control group, both exercise groups had more significant improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms. Between the 2 exercise groups, there were no differences in effect sizes.

After low-intensity training, the odds ratio was 3.62 for improved symptoms of anxiety and 4.96 for depression. After moderate/high-intensity training, the odds ratios were 4.88 and 4.36, respectively. Further, for improvement in anxiety symptoms, there was a significant intensity trend.

“A 12-week group exercise program proved effective for patients with anxiety syndromes in primary care,” the researchers concluded. “These findings strengthen the view of physical exercise as an effective treatment and could be more frequently made available in clinical practice for persons with anxiety issues.”


—Leigh Precopio



Henriksson M, Wall A, Nyberg J, et al. Effects of exercise on symptoms of anxiety in primary care patients: a randomized controlled trial. J Affect Disord. 2022;297:26-34. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.006