If you’re feeling anxious, you may want to hit the gym or head out for a run but those aren’t the only exercise options for helping you ward off stress. Fortunately, several types of exercise can help combat anxiety. Exercise is a stress reliever and a way to reduce tension and regain calm when your mind is being pulled in too many directions.
The Link Between Anxiety and Exercise
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but it’s not always easy to manage or live with. The link between physical activity and mental health is well established. Exercise can help manage anxiety, depression, stress, sleep problems, and weight issues. Studies show it can improve memory and thinking skills in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
Exercise boosts the brain’s ability to produce serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood — which may explain why exercise helps people feel happier after they work out. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, chemicals that help relieve pain and boost mood.
You. should know that having anxiety doesn’t make you weak or inadequate; it’s part of being human. Let’s look at some types of exercises that could help relieve your symptoms when they strike so that you feel better both physically and mentally.
High-Intensity Exercise Has an Edge
High-intensity exercise may have an edge for treating anxiety. A study found that both high- and low-intensity exercise helped alleviate anxiety symptoms in subjects, but researchers found a greater tendency toward improvement with higher-intensity sweat sessions. It may be that higher intensity exercise stimulates a greater release of endorphins and shifts brain chemistry more dramatically than lower intensity workouts. If you’re working out at a high intensity, you can get benefits in a shorter time, too. Research shows as little as 10 minutes of intense exercise is enough to offer mental and physical health benefits.
It’s also important to stick with an exercise routine even when things get tough — like when you feel tired after work or have trouble getting out of bed early enough on weekends — because consistency is crucial if you want lasting results from your workouts. Don’t give up if something feels hard right now… just keep moving forward. It will get easier.
Yoga Has a Calming Effect
On days when a high-intensity workout feels overwhelming, yoga can help you reclaim your calm. It’s also an effective way to improve both your physical and mental health. Yoga poses are designed to stretch and strengthen the body, while simultaneously calming the mind.
Yoga also teaches you how to breathe more deeply, fully expanding your lungs, which can lead to reduced anxiety and tension in your muscles. Research reveals that yoga reduces stress-related hormones like cortisol that enhance the body’s stress response.
Stretching does more than boost flexibility and relieve tight muscles. A randomized-controlled trial found that 10 minutes of stretching reduced anxiety and boosted mental health and vitality in workers. So, if you’re worried or anxious, take a break from what you’re doing and do whole-body stretches. You should feel the mental health benefits of stretching quickly.
Although high-intensity exercise may have an edge for easing anxiety, it doesn’t mean low-intensity exercise isn’t beneficial. The key is to do it outdoors in nature. Exercise is a scientifically proven way to clear your mind and relax. The fresh air and sunshine will lift your mood and spirits. So, it’s easy to see why so many people head outdoors for their workout.
When you exercise outdoors, you focus on the world around you, too. Plus, natural light has a beneficial effect on your circadian rhythms, the cadences that help regulate sleep and how your body responds to stress. Plus, the fresh air and sunlight can help you feel more energized and grounded.
Dancing is another effective stress reliever. You can dance alone in front of a mirror or with friends; either way works. This is a unique way to unwind after work or school since dancing is a mood lifter and helps relieve stress and tension built up during their day-to-day routine (so dance around your desk when no one is looking). You’ll love the way you feel afterward.
Discover What Works for You
If you’re struggling with anxiety and want to try new ways of exercising, try different types and see what works doesn’t work for you. Then adjust accordingly. You might decide less high-intensity exercise and more yoga is your ticket to calm, or you might find some of both is beneficial. The best exercise for anxiety is the one you’ll stick with. If you choose an activity that makes you miserable, you’re less likely to keep up with it. Don’t worry about finding the perfect exercise routine; just find something that works for you.
- “For Anxiety, Higher-Intensity Exercise May Treat Symptoms Better.” consultant360.com/exclusive/consultant360/mental-health/anxiety-higher-intensity-exercise-may-treat-symptoms-better.
- “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms – Mayo Clinic.” 27 Sept. 2017, mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495.
- Journal of Affective Disorders. Volume 297, 15 January 2022, Pages 26-34.
- Thirthalli J, Naveen GH, Rao MG, Varambally S, Christopher R, Gangadhar BN. Cortisol and antidepressant effects of yoga. Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;55(Suppl 3):S405-8. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.116315. PMID: 24049209; PMCID: PMC3768222.