These findings suggest that “the link between exercise and anxiety reduction is strong,” said Lena Brundin, a senior researcher in neurodegenerative diseases at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was another author of the study.
Plus, according to Deierborg, you probably don’t need to go long-distance skiing in the snowy forests of Sweden to reap the benefits. Previous studies on exercise and mood suggest that following the World Health Organization’s recommendations for 30 minutes of brisk walking or similar activities on most days “has good effects on mental health,” he said, and those benefits appear to apply to “a larger population.” Only the Swedes.
However, it may be helpful to monitor your psychological response to intense training and competition, especially if you are a competitive woman, she said. She said that her finding that faster women tend to develop anxiety more often than other runners surprised the researchers, and suggests that it may be performance anxiety or other problems that may be initiated or exacerbated in some people by racing.
“You don’t have to do intense exercise to have beneficial effects on anxiety,” Bronden said.
However, the results have limits. They cannot show that exercise makes people feel better, only that highly active people tend to be less anxious than their less active peers. The study also doesn’t explain how skating can reduce anxiety levels. Researchers believe that physical activity alters levels of mood-related chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and reduces inflammation throughout the body and brain, physiologically contributing to better mental health. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be outdoors among the silent pines soaked in snow and away from Zoom calls while training a Vasaloppet.
According to the researchers, any exercise in any environment will help us cope better this winter. “It appears that a physically active lifestyle has a strong effect in reducing the chances of developing an anxiety disorder,” said Derburg, who hopes to extend these benefits to the next generation. He said he plans to enroll and train at another Vasalopit in a few years, when his young children are old enough to join him.
“Award-winning zombie scholar. Music practitioner. Food expert. Troublemaker.”