Often times, when we feel depressed, we aren’t always up for a workout. Going for a run when we can’t pay our electric bill, or after we’ve learned our family member swindled us out of money, doesn’t always sound appealing. At that point, the only thing that we’d run for is if we were running away from the electric company.
But maybe if we did it (ran for health, not in avoidance of a power provider), it could help us negotiate those downtrodden feelings. I realize this isn’t groundbreaking science for anyone, but at the same time, reinforcing the concept can only serve to help us.
Anxiety Improvements Using Exercise
Anxiety disorders affect up to 40 million adults. That’s a lot of people walking around feeling, well, stressed out. Anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses in the United States. A psychologist who studies the effects of exercise on depression and anxiety say that 10-minute walks could be comparable, or even better, than a 45-minute hardcore workout. The point? Using the excuse that you don’t have the time may well be irrelevant. Unless, you seriously can’t find 10-minutes a day to walk around your house, in which case, your anxiety might be a direct result of your inability to manage time. I’m kidding, but I’m not.
Science has also been pretty clear in its finding that people who are physically active experience fewer cases of anxiety and depression. Researchers at the Journal of Neuroscience found that physical activity literally reorganizes the brain so that it can be more resilient to stress (study). It helps the brain respond less to anxiety (it neutralizes anxiety so that it doesn’t interfere with life). This research is a confirmation that exercise does in fact, reduce anxiety.
Dr. Lisa Herman, therapist, and owner at Synergy eTherapy based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, encourages her patients who suffer from anxiety to use exercise as a way to reduce symptoms.
“Besides good sleep hygiene and healthy eating habits, exercise is a fabulous natural remedy to help combat anxiety. Anxiety is that fight/flight system in our body that responds to danger, real or perceived. Getting our bodies moving, getting our heart rate up, helps release those feel good – calm down chemicals that can reduce the anxiety response from perceived (or non-life threatening) danger. We don’t want to get rid of anxiety all together as it helps keep us safe from real danger!”
“All of our highly skilled therapists at Synergy eTherapy know the value of regular exercise in reducing anxiety and can help our clients find the right routine that fits their personality and lifestyle. We won’t do what doesn’t work for our lives no matter what the research shows. Our goals is to help clients thrive, and the best way to do that is by helping them create realistic goals.”
“Finding coping skills to help reduce anxiety is one of the most important aspects to treating anxiety. It’s imperative that people realize they have control over their body’s response to anxiety-related thoughts/situations. Exercise is one coping skill that can really help clear our mind and body.”
What are some good exercises for anxiety?
I always encourage people to start with yoga. Yoga is an excellent workout, but at the same time, it uses poses which help the body stretch and increase stability. Playing basketball is great, but for many, their knees might not hold up. Lifting weights is also great, but it might not be safe for everyone. Yoga is great for those already in shape and those starting out. You can easily find local yoga companies in your area.
As the article stated earlier, just go for a darn walk! There is nothing wrong with walking, in fact, walking can be great for you. If you don’t have much time or money to spend on a gym, get outside and walk. For many people, running just isn’t an option because running takes a big toll on the body. And because physical limitations of running might cause people to feel as though they “can’t do anything,” I always make sure to point out that a simple 10-minute walk could do their mental health wonders.
Go hiking. Hiking is walking, but a more adventurous and strenuous version. Additionally, it comes with the risk of being eaten by a bear. The thought that you might be eaten by a bear while taking a lovely walk can put any other stressors in perspective. All kidding aside, get your hike on. Enjoy nature. Be at one with the plants and animals. But read all posted signage….so that you don’t get eaten by a bear.