Studies show that intensive exercise can help relieve symptoms of chronic anxiety. Of course, this does not mean that training provides a universal answer to mental health problems. Many other factors contribute to anxiety, such as stress levels, eating habits, brain chemistry, careers and family life. However, exercise can provide a buffer against the stresses of modern life.
Anxiety often causes people to feel paralyzed or scared for no apparent reason. This feeling can come on unexpectedly, making them feel like they have no control over their mind. Exercise helps build confidence and release built-up tension, temporarily relieving anxiety. Over time, these cumulative effects can lead to increased mental resilience and possibly complete relief from anxiety.
How Intense Exercise Helps Relieve Chronic Anxiety
Chronic anxiety does not discriminate; it can affect anyone at different stages of life. Since our brains haven’t fully evolved for this modern world, many people suffer from anxiety. We no longer scan the horizon for predators, but we have many other problems to deal with.
Since we lead more sedentary lifestyles than our ancestors, these stresses build up in our bodies. Over time, it overwhelms our nervous system and can cause chronic anxiety.
However, perhaps we should look to the past to respond to our mental health epidemic. Moving our bodies can reduce anxiety as it provides an outlet for excess energy.
Research shows that vigorous exercise, such as aerobic activities, can help treat anxiety. High-intensity workouts can include running, biking, dancing, brisk walking, or swimming. Picking something you can stick with for the long term is key to reaping the full benefits.
How Exercise Can Help Relieve Feelings of Anxiety
Exercise helps relieve anxiety by:
- Take your attention away from your thoughts and focus on an activity.
- Reduce muscle tension, where most anxiety and stress accumulate.
- Increase heart rate, which changes chemicals in the brain. Intense exercise floods the brain with neurotransmitters like serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and endocannabinoids.
- The frontal activating regions of the brain govern executive function, including the amygdala. Exercise helps strengthen neural circuits in this part of the brain, effectively reducing anxiety.
- It increases self-efficacy, which makes a person less prone to feelings of anxiety.
The Best Intensive Exercise to Reduce Anxiety Symptoms
So you know that vigorous exercise can help you feel less anxious and more relaxed. However, choosing the best exercises to relieve anxiety isn’t always easy. Fortunately, experts have found that certain exercises are most important for relieving anxious feelings.
- Running increases norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that increases concentration and alertness. It also releases endorphins, hormones that make you feel good and are responsible for the “runner’s high.” It can also improve mental clarity due to increased oxygen in the prefrontal cortex. After just one running session, they were noticeable but increased with regular exercise.
- Hikes or walks in the woods. When you’re surrounded by nature, it’s easy to forget about all your daily worries. Green spaces have been shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate as nature soothes the senses. In a Japanese study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, researchers told participants to walk through a forest or town for 20 minutes. They found that those who had walked through the woods had lower cortisol levels than those who had walked through town.
- Yoga combines breathing techniques with specific postures to calm the mind and reduce stress. While some types of yoga are slower, others offer intensive exercises. In 2012, a research team studied the impact of yoga on anxiety and stress. They reviewed the trials and published the results in Alternative Medicine Review . In 25 of 35 studies, participants noted a significant decrease in anxiety and stress levels after practicing yoga.
Since many people don’t like taking medication for anxiety, exercise is a great natural remedy. The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it can offer some ideas for an exercise routine. In addition to vigorous exercise, other lifestyle changes can relieve chronic anxiety.
Other Ways to Reduce Anxiety Levels
- Give technology a break. We are overstimulated by all our technology, between phones, computers, televisions and other devices. Our minds need a break, so be sure to allocate time each day for true rest. Many people take advantage of their free time to browse social media or binge-watch a show, but that doesn’t relax the mind. To truly experience peace, it is essential to turn everything off from time to time.
- Eat a balanced diet. Our diets have a profound impact on our mental health. Studies have linked processed foods high in artificial sweeteners, sugar, gluten, and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to anxiety. On the other hand, a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and omega-3 fatty acids protects mental health.
- Treat yourself to your beauty break. Many people today suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, worsening anxiety and depression. Put yourself first and make sure you stick to a regular sleep schedule. Notifications on your phone or your favorite TV show can always wait until the next afternoon.
- Live a slower life. To put it bluntly, we are not designed for such a fast pace of life. Don’t feel up to it or embarrassed if you can’t or won’t keep up. Your mental health should come first, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider downsizing your business to lower your monthly bills. If you have less to pay, you will have more free time and less mental load.
Final Thoughts on Doing Intensive Exercise to Reduce Chronic Anxiety
In recent years, anxiety levels have skyrocketed due to various factors. The pandemic, financial worries, climate change, work stress and everyday life, in general, have all contributed to the mental health crisis. However, studies have shown that vigorous exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Along with other lifestyle factors, such as eating well, prioritizing sleep, and embracing minimalism, anxiety can be controlled.
Of course, exercise and lifestyle changes don’t permanently eliminate anxiety for everyone. Many people find relief through a combination of medications, therapies, and natural remedies.
By Kristen Lawrence. Articles in English