A metanalysis of prospective cohort studies demonstrated odds of generalized anxiety disorder specifically (OR=0.5438, 95% CI=0.3231, 0.9153, n=3) were significantly lower in those who were more physically active (1) however another meta-analysis by (2) did not show a significant difference in odds of developing GAD in those who were more physically active.
Quality of evidence
C – Low
Strength of recommendation
2 – Weak
Conflicting evidence exists as some positive findings were not significant, however the risks are low and as such physical activity is recommended.
1) McDowell CP, Dishman RK, Gordon BR, Herring MP. Physical Activity and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Am J Prev Med. 2019 Oct;57(4):545-556. doi:
2) Schuch FB, Stubbs B, Meyer J, Heissel A, Zech P, Vancampfort D, Rosenbaum S, Deenik J, Firth J, Ward PB, Carvalho AF, Hiles SA. Physical activity protects from incident anxiety: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Depress Anxiety. 2019 Sep;36(9):846-858. doi: 10.1002/da.22915. Epub 2019 Jun 17. PMID: 31209958.