When your anxiety and depression symptoms are at an all-time high, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, with lower rates of mental illness. The exciting part is that your exercise doesn’t have to be structured, strenuous or lengthy to be beneficial! You just have to get your body moving and your heart rate pumping. Once you get started and continue with it, exercise becomes an incredible coping mechanism that improves your cognitive functions, boosts your self-esteem, regulates your mood, and much more. So, if you’re ready to explore the link between exercise and anxiety, read on for a list of 7 important reasons to exercise if you have an anxiety disorder.
The Powerful Link Between Exercise and Anxiety
Improves Cognitive Function
You’ll surely have noticed the decline in your levels of alertness, concentration, motivation, and memory if you’re someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. Exercise does wonders for the improvement of these cognitive functions, as well as others related to anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Add natural pre-workout to the mix to enhance your mental energy, focus, alertness, and concentration during your exercise routine to get the most out of it as humanly possible!
Incredibly, another link between exercise and anxiety (or mental health in general) is that it has been proven to stimulate neuroplasticity and the growth of new brain cells. This helps prevent age-related decline, while also sharpening one’s memory and thinking.
Boosts Your Self-Esteem
A link between exercise and anxiety that is often overlooked is the boost to your self-esteem. This benefit of exercise relates to your body image and self-confidence, self-belief and many other aspects.
Naturally, getting in shape and witnessing yourself look and feel stronger, does wonders for your physical self-esteem. You’ll start to feel stronger, more powerful, and overall happier with how you look, allowing you to walk in the outside world with your head held high.
Additionally, you’ll witness yourself accomplishing goals and overcoming setbacks and obstacles. This, in turn, will improve your general sense of control, give you a deep sense of achievement, and portray to you that you, indeed, can cope healthily.
Serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine are hormones your brain produces to improve your sense of well-being. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost your happy hormones naturally.
Endorphins are the primary happy hormones released during exercise. Endorphins are natural painkillers, for physical and emotional pain.
Serotonin is another happy hormone released during exercise, which plays a key role in elevating and stabilizing your mood. You’ll feel this mood-regulating effect within 5 minutes of aerobic exercise!
Cortisol, the stress hormone, communicates to our body that we’re in danger. Individuals with anxiety disorders have an unnecessary and excessive level of cortisol running through their veins. This can lead to physical illness, depression, and other undesirable symptoms. Regular exercise balances one’s cortisol levels, which decreases the likelihood of these outcomes.
An Effective Coping Strategy
Exercise can be one of the best positive outlets for difficult emotions. Getting your heart pumping, trying new experiences, and building muscles is a much healthier way to manage your anxiety and depression.
Once you’ve developed the habit of using physical activity as a coping strategy, you’ll find yourself relying on it to deal with future stress and anxiety. Plus, exercise helps you build resilience.
Focusing on the present moment during physical activity leaves no room for that distressing cycle of negative thoughts and worries. Mindfulness is your guide to inner peace and clarity, interrupting the flow of self-destructive thoughts running through your head daily.
Rather than zoning out while you repeat an exercise that you’ve done before, pay attention to the sensations you feel, hear, see, taste, etc. to reap even greater benefits. Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breathing, the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, the feeling of wind on your skin.
When someone with an anxiety disorder is feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, exercise often feels like the last thing they want to do. Anxiety depletes our energy dramatically and it requires energy to exercise. However, science shows that even just ten minutes of increased heart rate can significantly help fight fatigue and increase your energy levels. Start small and build up the length and strenuousness of your workouts as you feel more energized.
Regular exercise also promotes better sleep, which ultimately reduces anxiety and the negative symptoms associated with anxiety, such as fatigue.
Decreased Risk of Illness and Disease
An analysis made in 2015 on people with anxiety disorders shows that they’re at increased risk for developing several health conditions. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attacks, hypertension)
- Gastrointestinal conditions (e.g. ulcers)
- Chronic pain
- Genitourinary problems
- Musculoskeletal tension
So, it’s not just about combating exercise and anxiety; it’s about protecting your health on all levels. Knowing you’re exercising regularly and actively preventing your risk of illness and disease can also be an effective way to calm health anxiety.
Regular physical activity has been shown for some people to work as well as medication in dealing with anxiety and stress. Exercise can help to prevent and reduce high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and every other anxiety-related health condition listed above.
The link between exercise and anxiety is strong and physical activity can serve an incredible tool for those with anxiety disorders to help manage their symptoms, and maintain physical and mental health. Start small. Follow a 15-minute guided workout or yoga class on YouTube. Go for a 10-minute walk around the block with a friend. Put on some music and dance around your room for 5 minutes.
The first step is always the hardest. But you’ll feel the benefits very quickly.