This article will explore issues related to the effects of exercise on anxiety, what my own experience has been, and how you can decide what is best for you.
Can Exercise Help Anxiety? – The Easy Answer
The easy answer is yes it can. Exercise can reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. High blood pressure can make you anxious and so can high blood sugar due to the symptoms they cause; reduce them and you feel better and less anxious. Exercise also releases endorphins into the brain, chemicals that cause you to have a sense of well-being and to feel good. There are so many other reasons you personally may experience reduced anxiety when you exercise; maybe you are with a friend, you are outside, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Depending on the cause of your anxiety in the first place these things may help you feel more relaxed and if so, you know you are doing the right thing for you at that particular time.
I think the best way to share my experience with you is to copy a portion of an e-mail I wrote to my boot camp instructor in Feb 2015. I can’t believe I still have the e-mail! The background is that this boot camp consisted of a group of very positive people (as most boot camps do!) who promised, “energy up, mood up” from doing their workouts. I was really into HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) at the time because you can get such great benefits in a short amount of time and I really enjoyed the workouts.
This is an excerpt from the email I sent my instructor: “When I first started Boot Camp I definitely expected “energy up”, “mood up”. I do have more energy and I would say that overall I’m more positive. However, a couple of weeks into the workouts, which I’ve been doing faithfully, I realized, “Wow, I am a lot more anxious since I started working out.” Because I know that exercise is a stress reducer, I was really confused by that but I didn’t really give it too much more thought. Yesterday, after my workout my anxiety reached an all-time high, it wasn’t going to be ignored anymore. I actually thought I was going to have a stroke. I feel fine the entire time I’m working out, it’s a little while afterward that the symptoms begin. For the most part, those symptoms have been irritability and in general nerves on edge, noises bother me… I’m grouchy & edgy. I’m bummed because as of today I want to shy away from my workout. If you have any advice for me it would be greatly appreciated!” I also gave her some other info such as what I was eating, how I was sleeping, and that I was randomly losing my appetite throughout the day.
Her answer was that she thought my hormones were off and that I should continue to eat well, especially protein and healthy fats. Also, that I should pay attention to my relationships and spirituality. So this seems a little off topic but my point is that because my hormones were a little off at that time, HIIT workouts were not good for me. They actually caused my anxiety to spike. Strenuous exercise is a stress on your body, it causes you to release the stress hormone cortisol so if you already have too much cortisol to begin with, as I most likely did, the result can be an anxiety spike.
Individuality and Balance
It seems like everything I see online says “Exercise reduces anxiety and stress, period.” But think it’s really important to talk about the fact that sometimes exercise can make anxiety worse. Otherwise, we may never think of it as a cause and that can lead to a delay in bringing the anxiety under control.
Everything always comes back to balance right? It’s the same with exercise. We really need to decide what is the best exercise for us at that particular time.
An example of individuality is genetics. If you have had any genetic testing done you may know that certain genetic types are more likely to benefit, or not, from certain types of exercise. I’m going to include my fitness report for you in the resources below just because I think it’s interesting and I hope you will too. We know about genetics but when I actually saw in writing, for example, that I will get tired faster due to lower lung capacity I felt like, “Wow, there it is right there in writing… my own individual disposition.” And… I do get winded easily.
We know ourselves too, so we know when something spikes our anxiety and then we can make an adjustment, lower our intensity. Maybe when things change with our circumstances we can handle a higher intensity again. Or as my genetic report says, I can improve my heart capacity over time. I think the problem is that we don’t want to adjust, we think we should be able to do it and we push ourselves but balance really is important since we can damage our health with that kind of approach.
The Bottom Line
Many people wonder: Can exercise help anxiety? The bottom line is exercise does help anxiety. But what type of exercise is best to reduce your anxiety?
I took a hormone type test* and the recommended exercise for me is walking but absolutely not power walking. I don’t want to increase my stress hormones or spike my insulin.
Some anxiety reducing exercise might include: Walking, yoga, stretching, infrared sauna, maybe leisurely swimming? Although, there’s no getting around the fact that some people feel calmer and clear-headed after a run!
Whichever exercise you choose, have fun!! Good health to you!
Please tell me that you visited! Comment on your own experiences below. Has your anxiety ever spiked after exercise? Are you one who feels better after strenuous exercise?
I would love to hear from you!
*Metabolic Renewal Hormone Type Quiz – Metabolic Renewal is the first doctor-designed lifestyle program that optimizes your female metabolism by turning your natural hormonal rhythms into a fat-burning, body-sculpting, health-rejuvenating advantage. Dr. Jade Teta goes above and beyond with comprehensive reports and exercise videos you can download. His program is the first program I really felt was addressing my needs according to my own hormonal circumstances. You won’t be sorry for trying his program.
My Fitness Report – This report came through a third party where I uploaded my raw data from my genetic testing. It is for informational purposes only.
See my article: Can Low Thyroid Cause Anxiety? For information on using Amino Acids to control anxiety.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only; it is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or mental health conditions. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider to evaluate and treat your physical and mental symptoms.