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New study finds exercise improves heart health even more for those with anxiety and depression

Just another reason to lace up for your run today

A new study from the American College of Cardiology suggests that regular exercise can decrease the likelihood of heart complications by 22 per cent in individuals with anxiety and depression, compared to 10 per cent in those who don’t. Put simply, exercise seems to have stronger benefits for the heart health of those who struggle with stress-related conditions.

Researchers believe this is because of exercise’s ability to help counteract the negative effects of stress. “The effect of physical activity on the brain’s stress response may be particularly relevant in those with stress-related psychiatric conditions,” said the study’s lead author, Hadil Zureigat. “This is not to suggest that exercise is only effective in those with depression or anxiety, but we found that these patients seem to derive a greater cardiovascular benefit from physical activity.”

Heart attack remains among the leading causes of death in North America, and as anxiety and depression rates have risen throughout the pandemic, these findings couldn’t come at a better time. 

Researchers considered ‘adequate’ weekly exercise as 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movement. 

How to get back into running

While there are many ways to get 150 minutes of exercise in a week, or roughly 20 minutes a day, running is among the easiest. Beyond a pair of running shoes, there’s really no equipment needed. 

If you’ve taken a hiatus from running, or looking to get started for the first time, here are a few tips. 

  1. Start with a 20 minute walk/run, and over time, decrease the time spent walking and increase the time spent running. Start with one minute running, one minute walking. 
  2. Don’t run every day when you’re getting started; it’s best to alternate between a running day and a strength-training or cross-training day. Having some diversity in your exercise routine keeps things interesting and keeps injuries at bay.
  3. Don’t worry about pace when you’re getting started–focus on consistency, and your pace will improve over time.
  4. Running doesn’t feel good when you’re getting started (or restarted in some cases), but don’t let this discourage you. With every run, it’ll feel a little better.