Can Exercise Help Anxiety?

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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.

My Experience

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!

Alison

Resources

*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.

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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.

 

19 Replies to “Can Exercise Help Anxiety?”

  1. I suffer from c-PTSD which is an anxiety disorder, It is good to see the virtues of exercise for dealing with anxiety. I cycle most days It helps prevent anxiety starting and if you are having an anxiety attack exercise can stop it. There are the endomorphs that are released and the fact when you push your self exercising you have to control your breathing. Also, it takes your mind off what caused it. An excellent article

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. I love cycling and didn’t mention it in the article. I also appreciate your point about controlled breathing which has helped me through anxiety attacks many times. I’m glad you have found something enjoyable that helps you cope with your anxiety. I wish you all the best!

  2. Karin Nauber says:

    Your article was an eye-opener. I didn’t realize that certain exercises could actually hinder my abilities and increase my anxieties and stress! I also found the results of your metabolism test interesting. Was this done by a blood test? A physical activity test? Or how were the results achieved? It is interesting that our bodies can show these kind of results and help us to choose the kind of exercise that is right for us specifically.

    1. Thank you, yes of course there are so many benefits to exercise but a couple that can be negative in certain situations. The metabolism type test was a questionnaire that asked about symptoms I experience in relation also to my age, but mainly based on the symptoms. The report was very comprehensive in helping me know which exercises are best for me personally and even came with exercise videos and tons of other information. I hope to provide a link here soon, so please check back! All the best to you Karin!

      1. Karin Nauber says:

        Thank you. I look forward to seeing the link. I would be very interested in doing this metabolism test to see what would be right for me!

        Karin

        1. Yes, I think you would like it. It does make sense. I will post it here and I will send you an e-mail as soon as I do. Thanks again for your interest.

          1. Karin Nauber says:

            Thank you, Alison. I appreciate it!

            Karin

        2. Hi Karin,

          Thank you for your patience. I have inserted the link at the bottom of the article to Metabolic Renewal Hormone test. I’m sorry at first I called it a metabolism type test but it is called a hormone type test. I have corrected that in the article.

          I went ahead and got the package for $37 it is well worth it for everything you get. It’s very well researched and planned out. I downloaded all the exercise videos to my iPad. I hope you like it. Please let me know. I found it to be very accurate for me.

          You don’t have to pay anything to complete the quiz.

          Best,
          Alison

          1. Karin Nauber says:

            Awesome! Thank you so much. I will try this out on Wednesday. I have elections today so I am quite busy with that, but wanted to thank you for getting the information posted!

  3. One of the key way to have being healthy or to have a healthy mind is through exercise and I just can’t emphasize how important it is enough for everyone. Anxiety, on the other hand, is something we all pass-through and it is important that we do our best to get it out of the way knowing how it can affect our mental health. On seeing this article, I I now have more reason to be serious with my exercises 

    1. Yes, thank you and just make sure you do the right exercise for you. You should feel good during and after the exercise and be careful to avoid injuries. If you ever feel any anxiety after a workout, try to scale back your intensity a little and look into other forms of exercise such as yoga which has so many benefits and I hope to cover that as an anti-anxiety strategy here soon. Thanks for your comment and all the best to you!

  4. Great article about physical activity and stress. ANd yes, you can actually get stressed out from to much physical activity. I have been there myself. Recognizing the symptoms, I have re-adjusted my program for physical activity, and each of the exercises has been adjusted as well as not to end up in the same situation once again as you did.

    I am doing martial arts, and have incorporated yoga exercises is my training regime to address the topic of your article. I also do a lot more of the forms (katas), in slow motion to reap the benefits from the exercise itself and to address the issue of stress reduction. I need to focus though because I am used to competing in forms, where the intensity is extremely high.

    1. Hi Roy,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. I love the idea of the slow motion yoga for stress reduction.

      I see that you understand the need to adjust your exercise routine as necessary and I’m glad you’ve been able to do that.

      All the best,
      Alison

  5. Ismeglamour says:

    Hello there, Thanks for sharing this awesome article I know it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me. Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by: Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and many other natural brains chemicals that affect your sense of well-being and reasoning.

    1. Very true! Thank you. We may just have to vary the intensity depending on our circumstances.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  6. This is very interesting, I never considered that exercise could inadvertently cause these kinds of effects under certain conditions. 

    On reflection, although I don’t suffer with anxiety (I think, anyway!) I used to find I would have to time my gym sessions to be late night or very early mornings or I would become worried I wasn’t getting enough done within a session. Doing it late at night I found I could take my time and really focus on individual exercises and then sleep better soon after. 

    Obviously this was less of a biological issue and more mental but it goes to show there is no template for everybody, you really need to lock in whatever suits you as a person, your circumstances and psychology. 

    I’m glad you found a solution so you could keep it up, you’ve reminded me to get back into it!

    Kind Regards, 

    Tony

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughtful comments Tony!

  7. Hello there! this is an amazing review you have got here. I am sure the information in this post will be of great help to anyone who come across it. In my opinion, Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress and also boosts physical and mental energy.

    Thanks!

    1. That is absolutely true Joy and I’m glad that is your experience. That is why I was so surprised when it had the opposite effect on me! At least I know why now and how to work around it.

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