Doing This for Two Hours a Week Can Ease Your Anxiety, Study Finds

This simple exercise is good for your body and your mind.

Many people with anxiety are willing to do just about anything to rid themselves of the exhausting symptoms that come with the disorder. However, plenty of afflicted individuals continue to avoid the tried and true method of therapy and seek out other solutions for their anxiety instead. A recent study found that there is one type of exercise that could actually ease symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder if people do it for just a couple of hours a week. According to a report published in JAMA Psychiatry, doing yoga can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.

The study led by researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine sought to compare cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Kundalini yoga, and standard stress management education, based on their effectiveness in reducing anxiety. The researchers divided 226 people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and dispersed them evenly between the treatments. Participants had weekly two-hour sessions with about 20 minutes of nightly homework. The study found that CBT was the most effective form of treatment, followed by yoga, and then stress management.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the various forms of anxiety disorders affect over 40 million American adults yearly. Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects about 6.8 adults in America, with only 43 percent of them receiving treatment. The disorder is "characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things" and "is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms," per the ADAA.

Woman doing yoga at home to reduce anxiety

"Generalized anxiety disorder is a very common condition, yet many are not willing or able to access evidence-based treatments," lead study author Naomi M. Simon, MD, said in a statement. "Our findings demonstrate that yoga, which is safe and widely available, can improve symptoms for some people with this disorder and could be a valuable tool in an overall treatment plan."

The study found that 54 percent of participants who practiced yoga "meaningfully improved symptoms" while only 33 percent of the participants who did stress management education met that criteria. However, CBT was the superior treatment, with 71 percent of participants significantly improving their symptoms.

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"Many people already seek complementary and alternative interventions, including yoga, to treat anxiety," Simon said. "This study suggests that at least short-term there is significant value for people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder to give yoga a try to see if it works for them. Yoga is well-tolerated, easily accessible, and has a number of health benefits."

Although the study found that therapy is still the most beneficial treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the finding that yoga can significantly help ease anxiety symptoms is encouraging for those hoping that there are more holistic treatments out there. As Simon said, "We need more options to treat anxiety because different people will respond to different interventions, and having more options can help overcome barriers to care." And to separate fact from fiction, dispel these 25 Dangerous Myths About Your Mental Health You Need to Stop Believing.