Sure, exercise can improve your bod and mood, but now a new study says it may also help with something else: protecting you against future anxiety.
Past studies have already shown that exercise makes you feel happier, so this time researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health set out to determine whether or not these positive effects remain after we’ve left the gym and are faced with everyday anxieties and stressors.
In the study, healthy college students spent 30 minutes either cycling at a moderate intensity, or resting. Afterwards they were shown a series of pictures, some pleasant (babies and puppies), some neutral (plates and cups), and some violent. Anxiety levels were measured once before the 30 minutes, once after, and once again after the picture viewing.
The results showed that while the two activities were equally effective at reducing anxiety levels, after viewing the images, the “resters” regained their initial state of anxiety, while the exercisers maintained the reduction in anxiety.
According to lead study author J. Carson Smith, “We found that exercise helps to buffer the effects of emotional exposure. If you exercise, you’ll not only reduce your anxiety, but you’ll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events.” Just one more reason to hit the gym before work!