Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it also helps train mental acuity and fights anxiety and depression. Additionally, physical activity is key in activating the parts of your brain that process your response to stressful situations. During a panic attack, for example, the rational left side of your brain turns off and the emotional right side of your brain takes center stage. In order to think clearly about the situation at hand and your own feelings, you must find a way to reactivate the left side of your brain. Movement is a great way to bring your mind out of panic mode and begin thinking rationally again.
The effects of exercise on anxiety can vary by person. Some may find great relief through physical activity, some may find moderate short-term relief, and others may only notice small changes to their mood. For many, the consistent habit of exercise is what helps combat their anxiety, rather than only working out when acute stress and anxiety arise.
While the effectiveness of exercise for anxiety varies from person to person, doctors and psychologists agree that the benefits of exercise are undisputed and it should be part of a regular routine. Read on for some of the top recommended workouts for helping to manage anxiety.
Best recommended workouts for fighting anxiety
Running or jogging
Researchers have found that running helps release our feel-good hormones, like serotonin and norepinepherine. Running or jogging on a regular basis can cause lasting changes to these neurotransmitter sites and can leave you feeling uplifted and positive long after the workout ends.
Walking (extra points for going out into nature)
A research study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that humans benefit significantly from spending time in nature. Taking a walk in a garden, a park, or in the forest can greatly reduce stress in individuals who are accustomed to spending most of their time in urban areas.
Yoga is an effective exercise for managing anxiety due to its meditative qualities, where focused breathing combines with controlled body movement to reduce stress. The mindful presence that yoga requires makes it a powerful tool for combatting anxiety - after all, when you’re fully focused on deep breathing, your brain can’t focus on the present source of anxiety.
Swimming is another activity that forces you to pay attention to your breathing and slow down your nervous system. Being immersed in the water can have a naturally calming effect on the mind, and the steady repetition of swim strokes can help facilitate meditation..
Self-expression mixed with aerobic exercise makes dancing a fun and dynamic way to lower anxiety. Many people find that dancing allows them to express their emotions and release them in a healthy way, while still being active and enjoying that rush of endorphins.
Remember: While exercise is an important tool for managing anxiety, it never hurts to reach out to a professional if you need additional support. If you feel you may need access to professional resources, the National Alliance on Mental Illness can help you connect with providers in your area depending on your needs.
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