Researchers in Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois reported in Depression and Anxiety that their meta-analysis of the scientific literature showed that “a single bout” of exercise could reduce anxiety symptoms.
The researchers noted that 25 years ago a similar meta-analysis had found that “an acute or single bout of exercise reduced state anxiety by approximately ¼ standard deviation.” So the team examined 36 studies from the last 25 years that met their inclusion criteria.
“The cumulative evidence from high quality studies indicates that acute bouts of exercise can yield a small reduction in state anxiety,” they concluded. However, many of the studies included people with normal or low levels of anxiety, and the researchers suggested that future studies might provide more robust or clearer findings if focused mainly on people reporting high levels of anxiety.
Ensari, Ipek, Tina A. Greenlee, Robert W. Motl, and Steven J. Petruzzello. “Meta-Analysis of Acute Exercise Effects on State Anxiety: An Update of Randomized Controlled Trials Over the Past 25 Years.” Depression and Anxiety, April 1, 2015, n/a – n/a. doi:10.1002/da.22370. (Abstract)