What Are the Best Exercises for Anxiety?
If you feel anxious from time to time it is completely normal – maybe it is the first day of school or new job, or perhaps you have a big test to take or presentation to give. This type of anxiety is temporary, goes away relatively quickly, and does not interfere with your life. On the other hand, anxiety disorders involve anxiety that does not go away and can even worsen over time. The symptoms of anxiety disorders can become disabling and can negatively impact your personal relationships, school and work, and even every day activities. In this article we will cover the best exercises for anxiety, so you can better manage your symptoms.
Causes of Anxiety
The exact cause of anxiety remains unknown, but researchers believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry may play a roll. Additionally, researchers believe that the areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling fear may be altered in individuals with anxiety.
Types and Symptoms of Anxiety
There are numerous types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia disorders. Each of these disorders have their own signs and symptoms, which we will discuss below.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
If you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, you will experience anxiety about things such as your health, social experiences, work, and everyday life events most days for at least six months. The anxiety that you experience can lead to significant difficulties with your life. The symptoms you may experience include:
- Feeling on-edge or restless
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Easily irritated
- Tired, tense muscles
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty controlling your feelings
If you suffer with panic disorder you experience recurrent panic attacks that may come on unexpectedly or because of exposure to a trigger, such as a known fear. These panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense fear that peaks within minutes. The symptoms you may experience during a pain attack include:
- Racing, pounding heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of impending doom
- Feeling of being out of control
If you suffer with panic disorder, worrying about panic attacks and trying to prevent future attacks, can significantly interfere with your life, and you may even develop a phobia.
If you suffer with a phobia disorder it is due to an intense fear of specific objects or situations that is not in proportion to the actual danger that may be caused by the object or situation. If you suffer from phobia disorder, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Intense, irrational worry about an object or situation
- Trying to avoid the object or situation
- Immediate, intense fear when encountering the feared object or situation
There are various types of specific phobias, including flying, certain animals, spiders, heights, having blood drawn, etc. There are also other phobia disorders such as social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and separation anxiety disorder.
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Relationship Between Exercise and Anxiety
Research has shown that exercise helps to relieve anxiety and depression. It might not take that much time either, as a 10-minute walk has been found to be as effective as a 45-minute workout for relieving anxiety. While the effects of a single exercise session may be temporary, they can provide several hours of symptom relief, and research has shown that regular exercise may help to reduce symptoms significantly over time.
Furthermore, researchers have found that individuals who regularly participate in exercise have lower rates of both depression and anxiety compared to sedentary individuals.
So how does exercise help anxiety? Here’s how it helps:
- Exercise can help divert your attention away from the objects or situations you are anxious about.
- Exercise decreases muscle tension and relaxes the body.
- Exercise increases your heart rate which increases the availability of anti-anxiety neurochemicals in the brain, including serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and endocannabinoids.
- Exercise activates the frontal region of the brain, which helps to control your reaction to real or imagined threats.
- Exercise help to build up your resilience to negative emotions.
- Exercise helps to improve sleep.
- Exercise helps to improve self-esteem.
Best Exercises for Anxiety
The type of exercise that you engage in may not matter all that much as research has shown that there are improvements in anxiety levels no matter what type of exercise an individual participates in. The important thing is to be consistently active. Tips to keep active include:
- Doing something you enjoy so that you’ll continue with it.
- Working out with a friend or group for social support.
- Exercise outdoors when possible as this helps to further reduce anxiety.
- Be patient with yourself when you start exercising – it takes about four to eight weeks to feel comfortable with a new exercise routine.
- Listen to some music while exercising as it can make it more enjoyable.
- Set small goals every day and strive for consistency.
- Keep a fitness journal to monitor your progress and stay on track.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder the symptoms that you experience may negatively impact your personal and professional lives. The good news is that regular exercise can help to control symptoms of anxiety and help to maintain your quality of life.