Is there an exercise that can boost feel-good chemicals in your brain while reducing anxiety and improving your mood?
The answer is yes – it’s yoga.
Now yoga isn’t the only exercise that’s been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, but Chris Streeter, MD and her colleagues from the Boston University School of Medicine conducted a study that compared the efficacy of yoga to walking.
Next, researchers randomly assigned participants to either a yoga group or a walking group. Each group did their respective exercise three times a week for 60 minutes over the course of 12 weeks. Participants’ brains were scanned before and after the 12-week intervention, and anxiety and mood levels were measured throughout the duration of the study.
The results showed that the yoga group experienced significantly greater improvements in mood and anxiety, and higher levels of GABA than the walking group.
What’s special about this study is that it demonstrates that an exercise intervention (yoga) can increase levels of GABA in the brain and also bring about better mood and lower anxiety. It’s encouraging to see brain science validating the therapeutic value of mind-body approaches like yoga.
Anti-anxiety medications work, in part, by affecting GABA levels in the brain. This study shows we can also do this naturally with yoga.
And at The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts (founded by Bessel van der Kolk, MD), yoga is one of the innovative treatment strategies being used to help patients who have experienced trauma.
You might recognize Bessel as a frequent contributor to our programs.
And if you’d like to find out more about the study, you can find the article in The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Have you ever used exercise or other body-oriented approach to help reduce anxiety, improve mood with your patients, or as an intervention for trauma? Please leave a comment below.