One of the few bright spots of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been that it got you into some new outdoor activities.
As indoor venues kept people out and the outdoors was found to be nearly infinitely safer, many people around the country took up outdoor hobbies.
But if you didn’t, here’s one to think about: cross country skiing.
New data out of Sweden is showing that people who cross country ski are much less likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than their inactive counterparts.
And there is no reason to think these findings wouldn’t extend to other activities, either. There is a plethora of research that links exercise to lower levels of anxiety and as an effective form of anxiety management.
The researchers looked at more than 385,000 Swedish people, nearly half of which participated in a national annual ski race. The rest of the participants were regarded as inactive. All of them were followed for 10 years.
The skiers (those with a physically active lifestyle) had a nearly 60 percent lower risk of developing an anxiety disorder than the inactive group. The skiers were also more likely to eat better and have an overall healthier lifestyle.
Anxiety disorders are rather common, and one in 10 people could be at risk. Women are at higher risk than men.
The study does not prove that exercise can help manage anxiety or that it lowers the risk for a disorder, but it does add to the data that activity helps.
In fact, it is likely that any vigorous activity – or even moderate – can help. Exercise helps boost confidence and a sense of accomplishment, while it may also help boost feel-good hormones and general feelings of wellbeing.
Cross country skiing may be an option for you this winter, but if it’s not, getting outside for regular walks or an indoor dance party may be all you need to help put your mind at ease.