Does working out help anxiety? The short answer is yes, however, the effects extend far beyond simply improving your mood. Exercise brings about profound physical and physiologically changes which can help you manage your stress successfully while improving your overall health.
Psychological Effects of Working Out
Working out relieves anxiety in several ways. First, the act of physical exercise can distract you and prevent you from brooding about matters which are causing you stress and anxiety. Your mind's focus is diverted to the present and what you are doing at that moment.
Exercise requires concentration in order to perform at your best or to prevent injury. Whether you are running in the neighborhood or rollerblading on a trail, you need to pay attention to your workout and your surroundings.
The release of tension from working out can also take away some of your stress. You may be able to displace some of your anxiety onto the activity in which you are engaged. In this way, exercise will improve your mental state.
Working out also stimulates physiological changes which can help relieve stress. The mental and physical stimulation of activity can create the so-called runner's high. The feeling is the result of the release of endorphins, the body's own natural opiates.
A 2008 study in the journal, Cerebral Cortex (18(11): 2523-2531), documented the effect visually through the use of brain scans on athletes after a two hour running session. Researchers identified specific areas of the brain affected, lending hope to further applications of exercise as a way to treat mental health conditions.
You may wonder then how much exercise is necessary. A 2004 study in the Polish journal, Psychiatria Polska (38(4):611-620), found that anxiety was best relieved through exercise involving large muscle groups, such as swimming or jogging. The study recommended at least three weekly sessions of low to moderately intense exercise.
When you work out, you increase your body temperature and blood circulation throughout your body including your brain. This increase in circulation can help deliver the endorphins faster to the parts of your body affected by their release. The effect demonstrates the facts about physical fitness which go beyond improving your physical health.
Does Working Out Help Anxiety?
Working out improves your mental and physical health on many levels. You may find that your mood is lighter simply because you feel and look better when you are physically fit. Women tend to view their bodies more negatively than men, a fact which is sure to increase anxiety.
By exercising, you improve your muscle tone. You will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Your body will also adapt to your physical activity, allowing you to increase your endurance levels and intensity of your workouts. The more you exercise, the easier your exercise will become.
You may also find that exercise can help relieve depression. A 2009 study in the French journal, La Presse Médicale (38(5):734-739), found that exercise could be an effective, complementary form of non-specific treatment in individuals suffering from depression and anxiety. These findings give a whole new meaning to "walking it off."
Benefits of Working Out
Does working out help anxiety? Why not try it yourself next time you feel a bit down or anxious about worries at home or the job. Take a break and swim a few laps at the pool or take a 20-minute jog. The great thing about working out is that you can exercise when it is convenient for you.
You can use it as your own personal form of therapy to find relief from the things which bother you and make you feel anxious. If you embrace the healing power of working out, you may find that it motivates you to keep up with your regular exercise plan. You may find yourself looking forward to your next exercise session with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.