Impact of Exercise on Anxiety

It’s safe to say that anxiety has at least some kind of effect on you throughout the course of your life. If you are lucky, it comes and goes and causes nothing more than a slight disruption in your day or night. 

But there are certain cases where this condition can render someone debilitated. Getting a full night’s sleep is next to impossible, a quality relationship is hard to maintain and the simplest of daily chores can be arduous and nearly out of reach. 

In any case, regardless of the severity, there is one modality that always comes to the table as a coping mechanism—exercise. And this goes beyond the 1 rep max way of thinking. 

Benefits of Exercise 

Here is the obvious thing about exercise. Regardless of the form, it’s good for your heart and lungs. Especially when the duration is longer and you get a good sweat going. In essence, this reduces your risk for disease. 

To be more specific, the Mayo Clinic points out that regular bouts of physical activity can reduce the risk of such conditions as metabolic disorder, stroke, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and you guessed it, anxiety. 

But what gives? Just why is exercise beneficial for reducing anxiety? Well, the obvious reason is the element of distraction. When you are working out, you don’t really have to think about what is troubling you and causing anxiety or depression. 

When your brain goes somewhere else, it is very therapeutic. Then you have to add endorphins to the mix. These powerful neurotransmitters release feel-good hormones into the bloodstream that put you at ease and boost your mood. 

Lastly, the long-term effect of exercise is better flexibility, improved mobility, less injuries and most important, weight loss. Combine all of this together and it can make you feel better about yourself. When your confidence is high and you feel better about yourself, you are less likely to have anxiety.  

Duration to Acquire Benefits 

Isotonic exercise is any form of movement that utilizes the large muscles of the body in a repetitive fashion. Think in terms of moving when you have to unload boxes of stuff, walk up steps, and turn and twist. That’s known specifically as activity of daily living (ADL), but it’s a good example of isotonic exercise.

women talking while holding exercise equipment

Knowing this information, you can clearly see that a lot of stuff in the gym can be construed as isotonic. To add one more layer to this, there is a certain amount of time you should aim for to achieve anxiety relief and harness the rest of the benefits associated with exercise. 

The rule of thumb is to do a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity every week. But the Harvard Medical School has coined a new term called cardiometabolic exercise, or CME for short. This is an all-encompassing take on exercise, whether you do it outside, inside or at the gym. 

Simply put, it is a point system. The recommendation is to get at least 150 CME points every day. And not all activities are the same. For example, 30 minutes of moderate carpentry gives you 100 CME points. Mowing the lawn for the same time frame awards you 200 CME points. 

In the big picture though, there’s no need to get too in-depth with the particulars. As long as you aim for a good 30 minutes of activity every day, you’ll be good. 

Finding the Right Activity for You 

Given what you just learned above, you know that any form of movement with large muscles of the body can transfer over to health benefits. That is very important information to know when it comes to your anxiety. 

Even with choosing exercise in general, it’s important to do something that you like. If the thought of going to a gym and sweating it out on a treadmill is going to CAUSE you anxiety, then you are better fit for something else. 

Manual labor that is distracting would work out great. Something like chopping and stacking wood, for example. Put some good tunes on your iPhone, pop in your ear buds and away you go.

man using gym equipment

Using Good Form

Form is another important component of exercise. When you do something repetitively with bad form, you set yourself up for injuries, postural distortions and compensations that do not have a happy ending. 

Don’t ever neglect the importance of good technique when you are working out or even doing yard work that gets your heart rate up. There is a right and wrong way to throw hay bales, for example. If you don’t pay attention to what you are doing, you can throw your back out in seconds. 

Tips and Tricks 

Have you ever watched a professional football game? Two teams go back and forth and try to outscore each other. The team with the most points when the clock hits zeros is declared the winner. 

In order to do that, they accumulated those points over the course of the game. The end result is all that mattered and one team was able to win. 

Well, think of exercise the same way. It shouldn’t be that hard to accumulate 150 minutes of CMEs a week. But it just might be tough to get, say, 30 minutes in a row on any given day. 

But much like a team builds up points in a game, you can build up your time in exercise. An easy way to do this is by setting your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier than normal. Go for a power walk outside or do some drills from the comfort of your home first thing in the morning.

Then you can do another walk during lunch and something else when you get home at night. Log all of your minutes, and before you know it, you’re right where you want to be. 

And nowadays, there is no shortage of “wearables” in the marketplace. You can get watches, apps, bracelets, rings and the like to monitor every move you make throughout the entire course of the day. 

If any of these tools seem like they’d be handy to help you stave off anxiety, then it’s a good idea to get one. 

The bottom line is, exercise can be fun and it can also come to the table nicely when it comes to reducing anxiety. Find something that resonates with you and use it to the best of your ability.

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