Exercise is a good way to treat depression and anxiety disorders, and mental health professionals should prescribe this remedy, researchers said.
"Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health. The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be," said Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Smits and colleagues based their finding on an analysis of dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews related to exercise and mental health, including the authors' meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and studies on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise.
The researchers' review demonstrated the efficacy of exercise programs in reducing depression and anxiety.
Smits said that the traditional treatments of cognitive behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy don't reach everyone who needs them.
"Exercise can fill the gap for people who can't receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don't want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments. Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged," he said.
The researchers presented their findings March 6 in Baltimore at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.