How Exercise Can Help Manage AnxietyJan 27, 2024
Anxiety disorders rank among the most prevalent mental health challenges today, affecting roughly 19% of adults in the United States.
These conditions, spanning from mild to severe, can significantly disrupt daily life, impacting relationships, work, and overall well-being. While seeking professional treatment is crucial for managing symptoms, incorporating lifestyle changes, including exercise, can also be beneficial.
Anxiety, as defined by the American Psychological Association, encompasses feelings of apprehension and physical tension in anticipation of potential danger or misfortune. While occasional anxiety is normal, it becomes clinically significant when persistent, disproportionate, and disruptive to daily functioning.
Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
How Exercise Can Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms
Mounting evidence supports the notion that regular exercise can mitigate anxiety symptoms:
- A 2020 study indicates that physical activity may prevent anxiety disorders and alleviate symptoms in diagnosed individuals.
- Another study from the same year suggests that regular exercise can reduce anxiety symptoms, even among elderly populations.
- A 2023 study proposes that meeting recommended exercise levels can rival or surpass other interventions in reducing anxiety symptoms.
You see, exercise offers powerful mechanisms for reducing anxiety.
First, exercise naturally lowers cortisol levels, the stress hormone often elevated in those with anxiety. Physical activity improves cognitive function, enhancing emotional regulation and problem-solving abilities. Also, regular exercise promotes better sleep, which can alleviate anxiety symptoms exacerbated by sleep disturbances.
While resistance training may be the most effective way to improve mental health, various forms of exercise can help manage anxiety:
- Aerobic activities like jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing elevate heart rate and breathing.
- Yoga, combining movement with mindfulness, has shown efficacy in reducing anxiety.
- Outdoor exercise, such as forest bathing, offers additional mental health benefits.
Ultimately, the most effective exercise is one that you enjoy and can consistently incorporate into your routine.
Lifestyle Adjustments for Anxiety Reduction
In addition to exercise, other lifestyle changes can aid in anxiety management:
- Cultivate social support networks to provide emotional and practical assistance during challenging times.
- Create a supportive environment. Is your environment bringing you closer to achieving your goals? Or is it sabotaging your progress? For example, there are two steps to creating a more supportive environment. Your environment should make it easier to follow through on your goals. It should also make it harder to NOT follow through on your goals.
- Practice mindful nutrition. Adopt an unprocessed diet that's rich in lean protein and fresh vegetables. Limiting processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine can positively impact mental health.
- Be persistent. Real success doesn't come easily. If you stick with something and work your plan, you'll get where you want to be.
- Do what you should be doing. Your actions are either moving you closer to or further from your goals. Be aware of how you're spending your time.
- Invest in others. Spend time every day trying to add value to another person. It will come back to you 100 fold.
- Work on "you" every day. Seminars, books, audios, coaching - you can always improve.
- Focus on solutions, not problems. No whining, griping or complaining. Once you've identified an obstacle devote all your energy on overcoming it.
Let's say you want to lose 40 pounds of bodyfat, well, you will follow a similar formula.
If you choose to train four days per week, make it easier to follow through. It sounds cliche but pack your workout clothes, water bottle, and whatever else you need. Do this the night before and have everything waiting for you by the door.
Next, make it harder NOT to follow through. Encourage yourself to get out of bed by placing your phone (or whatever you use as an alarm) across the room, so you have to actually walk across the room and turn it off.
Another example is to create better nutrition habits. To do this you must have healthy options ready to go in your pantry and fridge. On the other hand, remove or minimize processed or junk foods in your home (or have someone else place them out of your view if you must have them at home).
If you’re taking a break from TV, have a replacement activity ready (reading, working out, a new hobby). After that, put the remote in a drawer so it’s out of sight/mind. Or, if you're really serious about making positive changes, rearrange your furniture so your TV isn’t the main focal point of your living room.
You get the picture. It’s like a one-two punch to help propel you forward.
Think about one simple change you can make in each category (training, nutrition, recovery, accountability) so you can set up your environment for success.
Take a few minutes and digest these eight tips.
If you live them, most everything else will get a little better and become a bit easier.
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Medical Treatment Options for Anxiety
For individuals experiencing anxiety symptoms, seeking professional evaluation and treatment is paramount.
Treatment typically involves psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), often combined with medication. Online therapy platforms offer accessible alternatives for those unable to access traditional in-person therapy.
In conclusion, integrating regular exercise and other lifestyle adjustments, alongside professional treatment, can significantly alleviate symptoms of anxiety and improve overall well-being.
To your success,
Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women get leaner, stronger, and happier. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to lose weight from home, with the best online longevity personal trainer, or you want to visit the best age-management personal trainer in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.