Physical exercise and obsessive-compulsive disorder


  • Lilla K. Panyi



Obsessive-compulsive disorder, physical exercise, therapy, adverse effects.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most common mental disorders, characterized by recurring obsessions and compulsions. OCD is treated primarily with pharmacotherapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, many patients continue to experience clinically significant symptoms following treatment. Exercise, and in particular moderate intensity aerobic exercise, has been found to be effective in the treatment of various psychological disorders and could also be a useful adjunct treatment for OCD. The present study reviews the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of OCD and possible adverse effects of exercise on obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The available studies in this area have demonstrated short- and long-term reductions in obsessive-compulsive symptoms and positive changes in mood following exercise interventions. However, in combination with eating disorder symptomatology, exercise may become a potential source of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Preliminary results show that exercise could be a promising alternative treatment of OCD. Nevertheless, these findings need to be interpreted with caution, given the methodological limitations, including small sample sizes, lack of adequate control groups and the wide variability of the assessment tools. Large-scale, randomized controlled trials are needed in order to clarify the uncertainties in this promising field.