Anxiety and sport

If you want to get rid of anxiety, go out and run for 10 hours

Do some endurance athletes use their sport as a drug? If so, it can be very effective medication, according to recent Japanese research.

At the Tokyo Medical College, scientists studied 27 Japanese male athletes (average age = 36) who completed the Ironman Japan Triathlon. The athletes completed the ‘State and Trait Anxiety Inventory’ two days before, immediately after, and one day after the competition. Average finishing time was 10 hours and 41 minutes.

Compared to before the race, anxiety levels of the athletes plummeted by about 14 per cent immediately after the competition – and remained at these more relaxed levels over the next 24 hours. This decrease in anxiety did not seem to depend on race performance, because it was present in both those athletes who were satisfied and unsatisfied with their race times.

Most strikingly, athletes who were the most anxious before the race (in fact, many of these fit the clinical definition of ‘high-anxiety’ people) got the greatest benefit from the 10-hours-plus of exertion: Their dips in anxiety were much greater than those achieved by less tense triathletes.

So if you’re an ultraendurance athlete and the ‘man on the street’ wants to know why you’re willing to punish your body for 10 hours or more in an ‘Ironman’ competition, just tell him that the effort is a lot cheaper than Prozac, and a lot better for the cardiovascular system!

(‘Changes in State and Trait Anxiety Following an Ultraendurance Race,’ Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 27(5), Supplement, #854, p. S151, 1995)

Share this

Follow us