Exercise Can Improve Anxiety Symptoms

That Psych Nerd

The positive effect that exercise has on anxiety.

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

At the start of summer in 2016, I joined the world of Pokemon Go like many other young millenials and gen z kids. I was obsessed with this game.

For those of you who do not know, Pokemon Go is an app that allows you to navigate the Pokemon universe. As you move through your city, doing your usual thing, the little avatar is.

As you walk, your phone can alert you to Pokemon nearby. And walking helped you hatch eggs by tracking the distance you walked. The eggs that hatched would be rare to familiar Pokemon creatures.

I would go to a local park to walk in the morning and walk in the evening. I needed to catch ’em all!

Needless to say, it had a fun factor.

So I walked and walked — All to catch some digital creatures, I found the joy in walking. I walked and walked and wanted to keep excelling in the game.

The more I walked and moved, the more my anxiety was reduced.

Using exercise as a way to alleviate anxiety is very beneficial. I’ve talked about the benefits of walking for mental health. But exercise in general — whatever kind you prefer — is crucial to your mental health.

Mind-body connection

Without a doubt, there is a mind and body connection. The brain and body are connected in more ways than we can fully comprehend. Our thoughts, feelings, and behavior affect our bodies.

When I started working a desk job that didn’t keep me on my feet, I had to give up some of my daily exercises. My walking time was cut drastically so I wasn’t able to continue playing Pokemon Go. I couldn’t get as much movement in because I was confined to a chair for nearly 7 hours of my workday.

I would not have the time to take long walks because my week was busy, and my workdays were rather long. I was left at the mercy of my tiny little desk. And a brisk walk to my car, of course.

My mental health plummeted from this — I needed movement. Movement keeps my mental health alive. I craved those moments again, taking mile long walks, all for a game. I wanted that feeling back.

When we experience anxiety, sadness, happiness — whatever feeling — we feel it in our bodies. There is a connection that has us feeling certain emotions in various parts.

Carrying all of that tension within our bodies can feel like a weight they were being forced to bear.

I was miserable.

Exercise and anxiety research

Over time, exercising can help alleviate anxiety. Research has sprouted showing the benefits of exercise to anxiety reduction.

In the study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, participants with anxiety were recruited in Sweden. At least 50 percent of the participants had anxiety for the past decade, so at least half have lived with anxiety for nearly a decade.

Participants were randomly assigned to either a group exercise session with either moderate or strenuous activity for 12 weeks. The other group received information about healthy habits for exercise.

The results showed that the group with moderate or strenuous activity had reduced anxiety. Participants who entered the exercise program with high anxiety reported low anxiety at the end of the 12-week program.

(this is an excerpt from the newsletter, Mental Health on the Rise)

Levels of exercise

Not everyone is physically able to do vigorous exercise. But there are different levels of exercise that can help you start. You don’t have to do vigorous activity — not everybody is made for that.

Maybe Pokemon go isn’t your thing — nor is breaking up a mighty sweat. Although research as shown that vigorous exercise can reduce anxiety symptoms, then there is a strong likelihood that even small walks can benefit you.

In that case, any exercise may help alleviate some portion of symptoms. It’s important to find what works for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

Low intensity

You can do this will little to no effort; your breathing is not labored. Low intensity workouts such as walking or taking a casual swim. Low intensity workouts may be easier to incorporate into your workout routine overtime.

Moderate intensity

  • Your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath.
  • You develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity.
  • You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.

(source: Mayo Clinic)

Vigorous-intensity

  • Your breathing is deep and rapid.
  • You develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity.
  • You can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

(source: Mayo Clinic)

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Exercise has been shown to positively impact anxiety — and mental health at that! I’ve decided over the past month or two to really incorporate exercise into my self-care routine. No longer will exercise be a means for weightless, but rather a way to strengthen my mental health.

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As originally posted on Medium

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MS in Psychology | Mom of three cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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