Category: Adult Anxiety

Symposium

Learn to Run for Anxiety: An Open Trial of a Transdiagnostic Physical Exercise Intervention

Sunday, November 19
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Anxiety Sensitivity | Transdiagnostic | Exercise
Presentation Type: Symposium

Anxiety sensitivity (AS), a risk factor for a number of mental health problems, is a fear of physiological arousal sensations arising from the belief that they will have catastrophic consequences. In prior research, short bouts of exercise have effectively reduced AS. Research with other AS interventions has shown that treatment-related reductions in AS may have transdiagnostic implications, reducing symptoms across anxiety and mood disorders. This study brings together these lines of inquiry to investigate the efficacy of a short-term, accessible physical exercise intervention in reducing AS and related panic, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depressive symptoms. The present study is a multi-site open trial (anticipated N=70; n=25 completed or in progress, with data collection to conclude August 2017) in which participants – university women with high AS – are asked to complete an eight week “learn to run” program. The program involves one independent and two group running sessions (20-30mins) per week. Participants complete self-report measures of AS, anxiety and mood symptoms, and functional impairment pre-, mid-, and post-treatment and are given a wearable fitness device designed to provide an objective measure of heart rate and frequency/intensity of exercise participation. Data collection is ongoing. Preliminary data (n=12) shows reductions in AS (pre M=33.67, SD=13.78; post M=17.25, SD=14.86) and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale scores (pre M=26.25, SD=14.60; post M=9.00, SD=7.87) pre- to post-treatment. Disorder-specific symptom measures and functional impairment, as well as mediational analyses (e.g., of AS and exercise dose on treatment outcome) will also be presented. Findings will shed light on the efficacy of a “learn to run for anxiety” program in reducing AS among high AS women, and uncover any transdiagnostic implications of this behavioural health intervention. 

Janine Olthuis

Assistant Professor
University of New Brunswick

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