Exercise and Anxiety

Exercise and Anxiety

We’ve all heard how anxiety can be helped with proper diet and exercise. In fact, when most people go to see a therapist, one of the first things they recommend is for you to start a moderate exercise schedule. Therapists will quote doctors and studies that show that exercise is key to physical and mental health. But is that true for everyone? Are there studies that show that the opposite is true?

What Is Anxiety?

According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety is intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in the United States and are the most common group of mental illnesses in the country.

How Is Anxiety Treated?

Treatments can consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication. Some people choose to treat themselves by using a variety of self-help exercises that include, but are not limited to, deep breathing exercises, long baths, yoga, CBT, and exercise. These are for milder cases of anxiety. For more severe cases of anxiety, doctors will usually prescribe medication.

How Does Exercise Fit In?

Exercise helps promote the growth of new neurons in key areas of the brain, including the hippocampus. Some research suggests that this may play a role in relieving symptoms of some psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety. Animal studies have found that increased neurogenesis may play a role in calming the brain during times of stress.

But before you run out and hire a professional trainer to meet you five times a week and plan out a rigorous exercise plan, you may want to speak to your doctor about what will work for you based on weight, age, and health issues. You don’t need to run 10 miles every morning before breakfast to see the benefits.

In truth, many would not be able to maintain such a strenuous exercise regimen, and it may cause you more anxiety and depression once you stop, can’t keep up, or potentially get injured.

General Benefits of Exercise

Most research indicates that regular light to moderate exercise can benefit problems with anxiety if a person is inactive. However, while different types of exercise affect the body differently, exercising more does not equate to less anxiety. It’s important that exercise not lead to injury, overwork, or become associated to other stressors.

If you don’t have an exercise routine, maybe a quick walk around the block to get you started is enough. Other forms of light exercise you could try in the beginning are yoga, a low-risk exercise to help heal the body and mind; Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art that combines breathing with meditation and movement; or regular aerobic exercises like swimming or cycling. And the exercise doesn’t have to last long to be a benefit to your overall health either. As little as 5 to 10 minutes of exercise regularly can be enough to improve your mood.

Whatever you decide to do to help you reduce your anxiety, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Many people will laugh at the idea of exercise being fun, but there are so many options out there that you can surely find something that will fit your life. Ask your doctor or your friends and family for suggestions and for help finding the schedule that works best for your health.

You should also keep in mind that exercise isn’t the only thing you should be relying on. If you feel that your anxiety is a problem that is getting worse, talk to a doctor to find out what’s really going on. Prime Behavioral Health has experts ready to talk to you, work with you, and help you find a reliable, effective, lasting treatment. Contact us today to find out more about our anxiety treatment options.

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