The Connection Between Exercise and Anxiety


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Coping with anxiety can be challenging if you don’t have the right tools. But understanding the connection between exercise and anxiety could help you release stress and feel better.

Exercise and stress often go hand-in-hand, but not in the way you might think. If you’re someone who suffers from anxiety attacks, you may want to start a new weekly or daily exercise routine!

Is There a Connection Between Exercise and Anxiety?

There is a notable connection between exercise and anxiety. Individuals that live a sedentary life (little to no exercise) often struggle with overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety. 

But to grasp the connection between exercise and stress, we’ll need to take a closer look at anxiety and its causes. After all, it’s challenging to treat or cure something if you’re unaware of the initial cause.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of emotional discomfort, unease, or intense fear. But individuals that regularly experience panic attacks may struggle to explain the cause behind their anxiety.

That’s because anxiety is closely linked to stress. The human stress response, often called the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction, is a highly complex process that affects our physical and mental health.

The human body is designed to handle stress. When we encounter a threat, our brains approve a massive release of hormones. Some of these hormones make the heart beat faster.

This helps the brain and muscles get an extra dose of oxygen, keeping us alert and able. Other chemicals that are released help quell our hunger or hide the physical sensation of pain. These also help us survive.

But modern people aren’t typically escaping hungry predators or outrunning natural disasters. As such, our bodies aren’t as able to physically process the feelings and consequences of stress, leading to anxiety attacks.

What Causes an Anxiety Attack?

Anything that causes stress can induce an anxiety attack. These events, people, or situations are called stressors. The likelihood that a stressor will induce a panic attack varies depending on a few factors.

An individual may be more likely to suffer from a sudden panic attack if they:

  • Are overtired or sleep-deprived
  • Already processing several stressors
  • Suffering from a nutritional deficiency
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Consequently, some of the best ways to reduce the chance of having an anxiety attack include getting enough sleep, avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices, and learning healthy coping mechanisms.

Exercise is an excellent coping strategy for most individuals. Even those with restrictive health conditions can find relief by exercising. But how does exercise help quell anxious thoughts and feelings?

How Does Exercise Lessen Anxiety?

It can be frustrating to hear someone say, “Exercise cured my anxiety!” This is especially true of anyone who’s struggled to manage their stress and anxiety over several years. 

However, there is a lot of truth behind that sentiment. Exercise can lessen anxiety and understanding how might be simpler than you think.

When trauma or stressor triggers your anxiety, your brain naturally enters fight-or-flight mode. This means a rush of endorphins and amphetamine throughout your body.

If you’re forced to remain still for the rest of the day, your body never has the opportunity to utilize those stress-borne chemicals and hormones. In short, you’re never able to physically detox from the stress response.

But regular exercise helps to regulate your body, helping you burn off that extra energy and feel better faster. In fact, one of the greatest challenges may be choosing an exercise that works for you!

What Is the Best Exercise for Anxiety?

The best exercise for anxiety is any exercise that helps you expend energy without causing strain. If you’re already physically fit, you might try jogging or weight lifting for anxiety and stress relief. 

However, some simple yoga routines or bodyweight exercises might be more beneficial if you’re out of shape. The most important thing to consider is comfort.

While exercising isn’t the most comfortable activity, it shouldn’t actively cause you pain, particularly intense or sudden pain. Always choose exercises that are within your fitness level.

To assess your current level of physical fitness, you could calculate your body mass index (BMI) rating. You could also try measuring your heart rate while resting, then taking a quick walk around the neighborhood.

After returning home, you’ll measure your heart rate again. You can then use these measurements to determine your target heart rate and current fitness level.

Learning How to Cope With Anxiety

Exercising regularly is a fantastic way to cope with anxiety. However, it’s not the only potential solution. In addition to regular exercise, it’s crucial to maintain a wholesome, healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, but it’s a crucial part of managing your mental health. Drinking alcohol, using tobacco, or abusing drugs are unhealthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed with negative emotions, one of the first things you may want to try is altering your lifestyle habits. However, it’s also crucial to seek help when those lifestyle changes aren’t enough or are too challenging.

You can schedule a session from the comfort and safety of your home. Many therapists and counselors offer virtual sessions that are easy to attend. It’s vital to consider such services if anxiety impacts your daily life.

One of the most common reasons why people avoid seeking therapeutic relief is time and energy commitment. But with online therapy options, you can receive the care you need without spending money on transportation.

Seek Relief From Anxiety

Intense feelings of anxiety can make it difficult to live life to the fullest. But understanding the connection between exercise and anxiety could change everything. Regular exercise could help you let go of your stress and anxiety.

When the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, why not burn off all that nervous energy with a quick workout? And if lifestyle changes aren’t enough, you can seek professional counseling to help you manage your stress and anxiety.

If you’re interested in receiving top-notch professional therapy, don’t hesitate to contact us today!