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2011 Archives

Psychologists link exercise to good mood

New book combines clinical research with strategies for workouts

Symptoms to Watch For


Symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic:

  • sad mood
  • loss of interest in most things
  • feelings of guilt
  • low energy
  • concentration problems
  • disrupted appetite
  • agitation or immobility
  • sleep disruptions
  • suicidal thoughts
  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • pounding heart
  • a fear of death
  • feelings of negativity in social interactions. 

See a sample from Exercise. (PDF)

July 25, 2011

The numbers are grim, say two psychology professors — one from SMU and the other from Boston University: research shows that 17% of American adults will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetimes.  Even more adults (28.8%) will be affected in their lifetimes by panic and anxiety disorders.

In our age of easy, fix-it-now solutions, most of the people facing these daunting challenges will turn to pills and other forms of medication to make their problems go away.  An entire industry has developed in response to this perceived pharmacological need, shoveling out antidepressants like coal into a steam engine to a public only too happy to sink into a numb, overmedicated haze. 

What alternatives are there to this approach?  Where can the individual plagued by anxiety disorders look for help besides their medicine cabinet?

Their closet, apparently.  Or at least the spot where they keep their running shoes. 

In the new book Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, authors Jasper Smits and Michael W. Otto tell readers how they can harness the physical and chemical properties of the human body to combat depression and anxiety. 

More than a step-by-step exercise tool, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety is an empirically supported method for governing one’s life and activity in an effort to best deal with stress, low mood, and potentially debilitating mental disorders.  The authors show that exercise is just as effective as medication, and that adults who exercise regularly show just a 1 in 12 chance of suffering a major depression, versus 1 in 6 in non-exercising groups. 

In a country battling the twin monsters of obesity and mood disorders, EXERCISE FOR MOOD AND ANXIETY could be the key to stopping both.  Better health, both mentally and physically, await.  It is simply a matter of deciding to be well.

About the authors

Jasper A. J. Smits, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Methodist University. He has done research on both anxiety disorders and health habits such as smoking, including a current large-scale study on the use of exercise for smoking cessation.

Michael W. Otto, PhD is Professor of Psychology at Boston University. He has done extensive research on strategies to improve treatments for anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders.

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