You probably already know that exercising is a productive way to keep physically fit, manage your weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and give you energy. But the benefits of moving your body go far beyond physical. There are also many mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise, including helping with your mental health.
Though the connection is not entirely understood, a clear link exists between physical activity and a decrease in the likelihood of anxiety and its co-morbidities, including depression and panic attacks. These effects occur biologically, psychologically, and emotionally.
Physical exertion releases endorphins – chemicals in the brain that function as natural painkillers. Not only do endorphins stimulate positive feelings, they also improve sleep. Sleep, in turn, reduces stress and improves anxiety. Endorphins aside, exercise energizes the body, leaving you feeling good both during and after the activity. Better mood, better sleep, and better feelings reduce the physiological and psychological symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety can be all-consuming, and this overwhelming sense of worry or dread can lead to panic attacks. Engaging in physical activity that you find both challenging and enjoyable distracts you from obsessive, harmful thinking. Your mind rests, in a sense, while your body works.
It is important to find an activity that does present a challenge and an activity you’re interested in participating for the greatest benefits in this regard. Halfhearted participation in exercise that feels more like a chore than a fun activity is not helpful and may lead to further stress and anxiety.
This activity does not need to be hardcore exercise. A game of soccer with friends, a swim in the pool, gardening, or a simple walk will do the job. It’s all about getting your heart pumping and your mind off worries.
Giving yourself the goal of more physical activity and following through with it will leave you feeling accomplished. Pursuing and maintaining a healthier lifestyle, too, will grow your confidence. Self-contentment and confidence are incredibly beneficial in keeping anxiety at bay, since most anxiety is rooted in inner conflict.
Getting and Remaining Motivated
The most difficult part about increasing your physical activity to reduce anxiety is getting started. It can feel impossible for an overburdened mind to find the time and energy to decide upon and pursue change, but it’s not. A professional can help you develop a plan to get started on and stick to a new regimen of activity.
The most important thing is to find activities you enjoy that you can and want to fit into your life and schedule. As a supplement to psychotherapy and psychiatric care, physical activity is immensely beneficial in improving your mood.