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Reduce Anxiety with Exercise

Exercise is most commonly known for improving our physical health. But did you know our mental health can benefit as well? Anxiety is a common feeling many people struggle with every day; “Over 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder” (NAMI, 2017). Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall mood.

Here are 5 benefits exercise can provide to minimize anxiety:


  1. The Release of Endorphins: When you exercise your body releases endorphins that naturally improve your mood and reduce stress.These effects will leave you feeling relaxed and in a “feel-good” mood. Consistent exercise is key to keeping a balance in your hormones to help reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline (“Exercising to Relax”, 2020).

  2. Reduce Muscle Tension: When your body is experiencing anxiety it is common for your muscles to feel more tension than normal. With the use of exercise muscles can be put into a more relaxed state. You will begin to notice your daily tensions ease away as your body begins to focus only on its movements in motion during exercise (Mayo Foundation, 2022). Tension can also leave the body feeling restless and irritable, with exercise these negative feelings will become less common.

  3. Confidence and Self-Esteem: Getting into an exercise routine can be hard. Setting aside time in your day for exercise will help you stick to a routine. For example, setting a goal to exercise in the morning and accomplishing that goal will provide a rewarding feeling. The more times you meet and achieve that goal the more confidence you will have. Sticking to your word and completing your goal to exercise boosts your self-esteem and creates confidence within yourself (Mayo Foundation, 2022). Feeling confident in yourself helps diminish daily anxious thoughts.

  4. Social Interaction: If your anxiety makes you feel isolated, working out with a friend or in a group setting can help. Being around others who are also working on their physical and mental health provides a sense of belonging. Socializing with others can also reduce stress, “stressed people who have adequate levels of social support receive an oxytocin boost which helps them feel less anxious, more confident in their ability to cope, and more drawn to other people” (Socialization, 2023). Entering a new gym can be intimidating, so bring a friend or family member for support.

  5. Mindfulness: More often than not, if you struggle with anxiety you find yourself wrapped up in your thoughts. Incorporating more mindfulness into your daily routine will help. Mindfulness involves being present and aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment. (Mayo Foundation, 2022b). You can use this as a tool during exercising. Focus on what your body is doing during physical activity and how it feels. Yoga, meditation, and walking are all great options for reducing stress and anxiety. Breathing is an important part of Mindfulness. Anxious or stressed individuals tend to take shallow short breaths in their chest, further increasing stress levels. Diaphragm breathing is a great tool to properly learn how to breathe deeply through your stomach. Once perfected this tool can be used anywhere at any time to provide a sense of relaxation and calmness (Deep Breathing Relaxation, 2023). There are multiple tools to help with anxiety, the benefits from exercise listed above are only just a few. The hardest part is starting, but with the help of others and the tools provided above, exercise can help reduce your anxiety.

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