Anxiety and Fitness

        We’ve all experienced stress, nervousness, and pressure in one form or another. This is normal and is actually designed to keep us safe. However, for about 20% of the population, this fear and worry can be worse. Those who suffer from anxiety experience chronic stress, worry for no reason, trouble sleeping, and even shaking. Treatments include certain medications and therapy. Another popular treatment that can help mild to moderate anxiety is exercise.

            One school of thought is that symptoms of anxiety can be made worse through inactivity. The human body will react to this sedentary lifestyle. Unused energy turns into tension within the body, stress hormones are increased, and the immune system doesn’t work as well. To prevent these factors from getting worse, we have to get moving.

            Before we go any further, it is important to know that anxiety doesn’t truly go away. Exercising is not going to solve all of your anxiety issues and being inactive does not cause them either. There are numerous factors in which anxiety can develop. Exercise should just be considered a management tool.

            Exercise will help in a number of ways. First of all, it prevents inactivity. This sounds obvious but for those whose anxiety is caused by inactivity; it can be a major factor in treatment. We’ve all heard that exercise releases endorphins into the body. These endorphins can help to regulate mood and help to relax the brain. Those with anxiety have an increase of cortisol. This is caused by increased stress. Cortisol causes concentration issues and increased fatigue. Exercise helps to burn the extra cortisol. Another way that exercise helps to control anxiety is through sleep. Exercise makes you tired; therefore, it becomes easier to sleep. Those with anxiety have trouble sleeping so any improvement in sleep quality is going to help. Finally, exercise is an excellent coping tool. All too often we see people turn to drugs and alcohol to help with coping. It’s no secret that exercise has numerous benefits and will not only help you physically but mentally and emotionally. It is a healthy outlet for nervous energy.

            One of the biggest concerns for those who are looking to start an exercise program is intensity. The good news is that those with anxiety don’t need to exercise at an extreme intensity. Starting with a low intensity program such as yoga, walking, biking, or a relaxed sport is enough to just get you moving. Starting there and moving up to more intense exercise such as lifting, running, or swimming can benefit anyone.

            Anxiety affects a large population and can seem an insurmountable challenge to overcome. Therapy and medications can help. Exercise is a positive outlet for stress and nervousness and can also benefit those with anxiety. Again it is not a magic pill that’s going to resolve all of your anxiety symptoms, but exercise can help to control them a little better.