In the article “Exercise to get rid of anxiety, and put on a happy face” published April 26, health columnist Kim Painter quotes Smits saying more therapists should prescribe exercise as an effective treatment.
Smits co-authored a book detailing how exercise can provide relief for people who struggle with depression and anxiety disorders.
Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, analyzed numerous studies and determined exercise should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers.
They presented their findings to researchers and mental health care providers March 6 at the Anxiety Disorder Association of America’s annual conference in Baltimore. Their workshop was based on their therapist guide “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders,” with accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009).
The guide draws on dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews that demonstrate the efficacy of exercise programs, including the authors’ meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and study on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise.
By Kim Painter
Most people seeking treatment for depression or anxiety face two choices: medication or psychotherapy. But there’s a third choice that is rarely prescribed, though it comes with few side effects, low costs and a list of added benefits, advocates say.
The treatment: exercise.
“It’s become clear that this is a good intervention, particularly for mild to moderate depression,” says Jasper Smits, a psychologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Exercise as an anxiety treatment is less well-studied but looks helpful, he says.
It’s no secret that exercise often boosts mood: The runner’s high is legendary, and walkers, bikers, dancers and swimmers report their share of bliss.
Now, data pooled from many small studies suggest that in people diagnosed with depression or anxiety, the immediate mood boost is followed by longer-term relief, similar to that offered by medication and talk therapy, says Daniel Landers, a professor emeritus in the department of kinesiology at Arizona State University.
And exercise seems to work better than relaxation, meditation, stress education and music therapy, Landers says.