A new study suggests that a group of people who engage in regular physical exercise may have a lower risk of developing anxiety disorder compared to others by almost 60 percent.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The researchers from Lund University in Sweden conducted the study based on data from almost 400,000 people in one of the largest ever population epidemiology studies across both sexes. Researcher Martine Svensson stated that they were able to identify a noticeable difference in the risk of developing anxiety and in exercise performance levels between males and females. Anxiety disorders usually develop early in a person’s life and it is estimated that it affects approximately 10 percent of the world’s population. Besides, it has also been found more common among women compared to men.
The study revealed that male skier’s physical performance did not have any effect on the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. The highest performing group of female skiers had almost the double risk of getting anxiety in comparison to the other group which was physically active at a lower performance level.
The researchers noted, “The total risk of having an anxiety disorder among high-performing women was still low in comparison to the more physically inactive women of the general population.”
According to the researchers, the findings of the study cover relatively undiscovered territory for scientific research, as mostly the previous studies were focused on issues like mental illness or depression as opposed to specific anxiety disorders.
And some of the largest studies looking into the effects of physical activity on mental health only included men and were also much smaller in sample size, which had limited or no follow-up data.
Speaking on the findings Svensson said, “Our study indicates that the relation between symptoms of anxiety and exercise behaviour may not be linear. They are most likely to be affected by personality traits, genetics, and psychological factors.
“Studies investigating the driving factors behind these differences between men and women when it comes to extreme exercise behaviours and how it affects the development of anxiety are needed,” he further added.