An analysis of 10 studies on the effects of exercise on anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia (FM) found that exercise training can cause anxiety to drop. Training programs that lasted longer reduced anxiety more in these patients than shorter ones.
The results of the analysis were reported in the article, “The Effects of Exercise Training on Anxiety in Fibromyalgia Patients: A Meta-analysis,” published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The 10 studies involved 595 patients with fibromyalgia with an average age of 47.6 years. Women accounted for 97.5% of patients. All of the studies randomized the patients between groups who followed exercise programs (297) and patients who did not (298).
Anxiety outcomes were measured before and during or after exercise training. Most of the studies used the anxiety subscale of the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (commonly used to evaluate fibromyalgia patients) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a questionnaire to assess anxiety.
Exercise training consisted of an average of three sessions per week at 46 minutes per session for up to 30 weeks. The mean exercise training attendance rate was 72%.
While patients who had exercise training saw a slight drop in their anxiety symptoms, larger drops were seen patients who followed longer training programs.
The drops in anxiety were not associated with the degree of pain experienced by the patients.
Other studies have shown that exercise has beneficial effects on pain, fatigue, and physical function in patients with fibromyalgia. Effects of exercise compare favorably with the effects achieved by approved drugs.
The authors point out that exercise training is safe and well-tolerated by most patients with fibromyalgia. It is recommended by international guidelines for pain management.
“The present results provide evidence for exercise training as a potential low-risk, adjuvant treatment for anxiety symptoms that may develop among fibromyalgia patients,” the authors noted.
“The findings also suggest that larger anxiety symptom reductions will be achieved by focusing on longer exercise programs while promoting long-term adherence,” they added.
“Finally, anxiety reductions appear to occur regardless of whether pain symptoms improve, providing additional support for fibromyalgia patients to initiate and/or maintain physical activity,” the study concluded.