These results indicate that “the link between exercise and reduced anxiety is strong,” said Lena Brundin, a senior investigator for neurodegenerative diseases at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was another study author.
Plus, according to Deierborg, you probably don’t need to ski long distances in Sweden’s snowy forests to reap the benefits. Previous studies on exercise and mood suggest that following the World Health Organization’s recommendations of brisk walking or similar activities for 30 minutes most days “has good effects on mental health,” he said, and these benefits seem to apply to a “wider population” than just the Swedish.
Still, it may be worth monitoring your psychological response to intense training and competition, especially if you’re a competitive woman, she said. The finding that faster women tended to develop anxiety more often than other runners surprised the researchers, she said, and suggests that perhaps performance anxiety or other problems might be initiated or exacerbated in some people by racing.
“You don’t have to do extreme exercise to get the beneficial effects on anxiety,” Brundin said.
However, the results have limitations. They can’t show that exercise makes people feel better, just that very active people tend to be less anxious than their more sedentary peers. The study also does not explain how skiing can reduce anxiety levels. Researchers suspect that physical activity changes levels of mood-related brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and reduces inflammation throughout the body and brain, physiologically contributing to better mental health. robust. Getting outdoors among silent, snow-soaked pines and away from Zoom calls while he trains for a Vasaloppet probably won’t hurt either.
According to the researchers, any exercise in any environment should help us cope better this winter. “A physically active lifestyle appears to have a strong effect in reducing the chances of developing an anxiety disorder,” said Deierborg, who hopes to extend those benefits to the next generation. He plans to sign up and train for another Vasaloppet in a few years, he said, when his young children are old enough to join him.