Exercise Helps Reduce Anxiety

Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on overall emotional health..

Exercise Reduces Anxiety

Anxiety seems to affect all of us at some point in our lives. While anxiety itself can be brought on by a wide range of factors and is experienced differently among individuals, exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on overall emotional health.

Research going back as far as late 1980’s has demonstrated a positive correlation between physical activity and emotional health. Good mental health is defined as a positive mood, general well-being, and relatively infrequent symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results after 10 years of study were free of socioeconomic status, age and/or gender.

Exercise Can Help Prevent Anxiety

Exercise can also have preventive benefits. A number of research studies have compared exercisers to non-exercisers and the results reveal a greater reduction in anxiety among people who exercise than those receiving other forms of anxiety-reducing treatment. Overall, exercisers feel an immediate response to what is termed state anxiety, which reflects changes in mood and behavior in the moment. Physical activity improves energy and a sense of vitality, which reduces the sense of anxiety. The effect seems to be both psychological and neurological.

Anxiety And Its Physiology

Your central nervous system is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling. It stimulates the adrenal glands to release stress hormones. This is important when there is a state of emergency. Once the threat is gone, the hypothalamus triggers every system of the body to return to normal. If the fear or stress (real or perceived) lingers, the body does not re-adjust and stays in an elevated state of alert or stress. Over time, this puts a demand on all aspects of your body, causing fatigue and sometimes even psychological and/or physical breakdown.

Physical training stresses the body in a way that the body learns to adapt to greater effort, leading to increased resiliency to physical and emotional stress. This enables people to adapt more easily to difficult situations.

The emotional benefits of exercise have a neurochemical effect. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol. At the same time, it stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that are a natural mood enhancer and painkiller.

The stress response increases breathing and heart rates. This causes rapid, shallow breathing and constricted blood vessels. This effect decreases oxygen delivery to every cell in the body. Less oxygen to the brain decreases clarity and energy. The feeling of fatigue leads to greater stress. You might see that a pattern of stimulus and response can develop..

Under stress, your liver produces more blood sugar or glucose to provide the energy to handle this stress. With chronic stress, the body may not be able to handle the heightened blood sugar, leading to Type 2 diabetes.

Types Of Exercise That Help With Anxiety

Although the exact types of exercise programming are still in question there are numerous activities that have shown great results in managing anxiety. Current research indicates the type of exercise is less important than the act of exercise. Studies comparing cardiovascular activities, strength, stretching, yoga and tai chi have found them equally effective.

Intensity and duration of exercise have been looked at and it appears all intensities have a positive effect, though greater effects were noted when exercise was performed at moderate to moderately high intensity for longer than 30 minutes.

Creating a routine of regular exercise is important when it comes to managing anxiety. A pre-exercise state of anxiety might return within 24 hours. Exercise is a buffer and creates greater resiliency to physical and mental stress. Not only are you training your cardiovascular and muscular system to handle more work, you are developing overall resistance to stress. Begin exercising 3 to 4 days per week preferably. You will feel the difference sooner than you think!

Exercise And Well Being

Interestingly, how people look at exercise and determine their goals has an effect on the overall sense of well-being. Exercise performed for external motivation, such as physical appearance, has been shown to cause greater anxiety (‘will I ever look “good enough?”‘) whereas exercise for internal motivation (quality of life) translates to higher levels of satisfaction.

Helen Vanderburg, co-owner of Heavens Elevated Fitness, Yoga and Spin Studio, is the author of Fusion Workouts, and a motivational speaker. Find her at heavensfitness. com and helenvanderburg.com. Find her online at heavensfitness.com and helenvanderburg.com. Follow her on Facebook/helenvanderburg, Instagram: @hvanderburg

My Comments:

Please consider starting an exercise program today. Keep a daily journal. Jot down your thoughts (you may recognize patterns). Journaling is a good way to get these thoughs off of our minds and onto paper. In the same way, write your exercise goals down. Even beginning with 10 or 15 minutes of daily movement is a great start! Use a checklist and check off your accomplishments as you attain them.

Positive reinforcement and positive habits such as exercise and accountability are two time tested methods to move us forward. We can improve our lives in a way that benefits ourselves and those around us too!


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