Exercise and relaxation activities like yoga can positively impact people with social anxiety disorders, says a study.
They change the way people perceive the world, altering their perception so that they view the environment in a less threatening, less negative way, the findings showed.
“We wanted to examine whether people would perceive their environment as less threatening after engaging in physical exercise or after doing a relaxation technique that is similar to the breathing exercises in yoga,” said Adam Heenan from Queen’s University in Canada.
For his research, Heenan used human point-light displays – a depiction of a human that is comprised of a series of dots representing the major joints.
Human point-light displays are depth-ambiguous and because of this an observer looking at the display could see it as either facing towards them or facing away.
“We found that people who either walked or jogged on a treadmill for 10 minutes perceived these ambiguous figures as facing towards them (the observer) less often than those who simply stood on the treadmill,” Heenan said.
The same was true when people performed progressive muscle relaxation, he noted.
This is important because anxious people display a bias to focus on more threatening things in their environment.
In fact, some researchers think that this is how these disorders are perpetuated: People who are anxious focus on anxiety-inducing things and thus become more anxious, in a continuous cycle.
This findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.