Disabling Anxiety Through Exercise

AnxietyBy Sean Keats, CSCS

(WINDSOR, ON) – Whether you have a presentation to make at work or are anticipating an upcoming visit to the dentist, anxiety is a part of life.  Sometimes, the stresses of life can lead to more constant feelings of anxiety.  Financial troubles, strained relationships, medical problems, or a tyrannical boss can all up your anxiety levels.

So how can you break free from anxiety?  What can you do to relieve the inner tension and improve your outlook on life?  Go running!  While it may be the last thing you feel like doing, exercise may be one of the best ways to relieve anxiety.

Keep in mind that it’s not normal or healthy when anxious thoughts dominate your life and you can’t seem to escape feelings of fear and dread.  If you’ve felt excessive anxiety and worry for longer than six months, make an appointment to see your doctor.  Psychotherapy and/or medications may be needed in addition to alternative remedies such as exercise.  Anxiety disorders affect nearly one in five Canadians, so if you have an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone.

A Mind-Body Connection

Everyone knows the amazing benefits exercise has for the health of your heart and the rest of your body.  But the benefits of exercise go beyond the physical to the psychological.  How does this work?

Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain.  This kicks your brain into gear and releases brain chemicals called endorphins.  These neurotransmitters improve your mood and are natural painkillers.  They also help you sleep better, which in turn can reduce anxiety.  Exercise not only increases the “feel good” hormones, but decreases the stress-induced hormones adrenaline and cortisol that make you feel tense or depressed.

Research is on-going in the effects exercise has on your brain.  In one sense, physical activity increases brain activity and excites brain cells, but at the same time it has a calming effect.

Change the Subject

Get out of the house.  Take a break from the computer screen and take a walk.  It’s amazing how being surrounding by nature or different scenery can do for your mood and tension level.  Exercise can take your mind off your worries and put them on the task at hand.  It’s also a great way to blow off some steam and get some fresh air.

Improve Your Life

When you become anxious about your weight or health, exercise is the answer.  Lose weight, improve your health, and feel better about your appearance with physical activity.

Remember that exercise is more than something that helps you get healthy.  It can be a great hobby.  Take a break from the pressures of life and do something you enjoy.

The process of setting an exercise goal (losing weight or running a 5K), working towards your goal, and finally reaching your goal are great confidence boosters.

Cope the Healthy Way

Anxiety and depression lead many down a path to unhealthy habits.  Some try to drown their worries in alcohol or drugs.  Others find that smoking relieves their tension.  But these coping mechanisms don’t solve anything. They only make problems worse.

Exercise, on the other hand, is a perfectly healthy way to cope with anxiety, tension, and depression.  Don’t wait for your feelings to magically disappear.  Instead, do something about them. Find an exercise partner who you enjoy being with and you lifts your spirits.  Spending time with a friend is a great way to improve your mood and relieve anxiety, and if you’re exercising together, it improves your health and waistline at the same time!

All It Takes

Ready to tackle anxiety?  You don’t have to become a gym rat that works out 2 hours a day.  A mere 30-45 minutes a day is all it takes to improve the health of your body and mind.  On days when you can’t hit the gym, get in three 10-minute walks while at work.  Your body and mind will thank you.

Sean Keats is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Functional Movement Specialist at BodyX Fitness Solutions in Tecumseh.  For more information about Sean, visit his Facebook page.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.
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