Anxiety is related to depression and most people with depression also experience anxiety (and vice versa). One study shows how exercise can help students with physical symptoms of anxiety—the kind that are often associated with panic attacks. Researchers split 54 students who did not normally exercise into two groups: one group worked out at a high intensity and the other group worked out at a low intensity. Both groups felt reduced levels of anxiety. The group with higher intensity exercise saw the reduction in anxiety faster, and even more interesting, they felt less afraid of their physical anxiety symptoms as early as after the second session of exercise!1
Now, one of the difficulties people with panic attacks face is that any number of physical symptoms may become interpreted as signaling a potential panic attack, often setting off panic when it may not have occurred otherwise. So, if high intensity exercise can begin to reduce fear of panic attacks in a mere two sessions, I’d say that’s great news!
What about those who don’t necessarily struggle with panic attacks, but who struggle with the long-term anxiety that has traditionally been associated with personality type? Again, the research comes up very positively in favor of exercise’s power to reduce the kind of anxiety that’s “just a part of you” and not necessarily situational. Overall, exercise is one of your best bets for resolving mental health difficulties.
1. Broman-Fulks, J. J., Berman, M. E., Rabian, B., & Webster, M. J. (2004). Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(2): 125-136.