Hitting the slopes and other types of exercise might reduce anxiety

Hitting the slopes and other types of exercise might reduce anxiety

Suffering from anxiety? Hit the gym. Walk the dog. Jog around the neighborhood. Exercise, researchers say, might be key in avoiding the disorder. They tested their hunch by looking at the mental health of skiers hitting the slopes. Skiers, after all, appear to be a happy bunch.

Scientists in a huge epidemiology study that involved 400,000 people compared skiers and a group of people who never hit the powdered hills. The skiers participated in the world’s largest long-distance cross-country race in Sweden between 1989 and 2010.

Researchers found a remarkable 60% lower risk of developing anxiety in people who skied compared with those who didn’t. That was during the study’s 21-year follow-up period. The correlation was observed in men and women.

The study suggests that physical activity in general appears to help stave off anxiety. Investigators don’t suggest that skiing alone will help. Any physical activity might do. But they are open to the possibility that being among like-minded people slaloming has an especially positive effect on the psyche.

The stakes can be high for the estimated 10% of people around the globe who experience anxiety. The ailment can be debilitating, causing an increased heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating and trembling. Some people can even faint.

An oddity was noticed in the data. The highest-performing female skiers had nearly double the risk of anxiety compared with other women who skied with less vigor. Even so, these uber-skiers still experience less anxiety than those people who weren’t on the slopes at all.

This work once again reinforces that exercise can be the best medicine. The lack of anxious skiers on the slopes might prove the point.

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