How Does Exercise Help Anxiety
Physical exercise may lessen feelings of anxiety and improve your resiliency against stress. Exercise is associated with less reactivity in the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, both of which are associated with the fight-or-flight reaction. Regular physical activity may also have positive effects on the brain, like increased neurogenesis and improved neurotransmitter levels.
Exercise As A Stressor
The above discussion should impress upon the clinician and researcher that exercise is itself a mental and physical stressor . In short, the stress of exercise may in some circumstances interact with psychological stress to dampen PA behavior. Indeed, exercise might by typified as a self-inflicted stressor, often intentionally undertaken with a goal of attaining health and fitness. While such experiences are generally considered adaptive, not all outcomes are positive in nature. From a physical standpoint, for instance, there is always risk of injury , which is magnified under conditions of stress and may result in missed exercise participation. Exercise undertaken in unaccustomed volumes can elevate glucocorticoids and stunt physical processes, such as neurogenesis . Ultimately, at very high levels exercise may result in deleterious outcomes, such as unexplained underperformance syndrome. This outcome may be exacerbated by the experience of mental stressors and, likewise, may result in additional sensations of stress . Indeed, increased exercise over a period of days or weeks can contribute to negative shifts in ones mood and increased perceived stress . A recent study found that poor muscular recovery was associated with self reports of chronic stress . As sensations related to muscle damage likely result in impaired PA , it is possible that stress may affect exercise behavior by magnifying unpleasant sensations associated with exercise.
Mental Exercises Reduce Stress Too
Bodily exercise can help relax the mind, and mental maneuvers can, too. Most often, that means talking out problems with a supportive listener, who can be a friend, a chaplain, or a trained counselor or psychotherapist. But you can also do it yourself, harnessing the power of your own mind to reduce stress. Simply writing down your thoughts and feelings can be very beneficial, and formal meditation exercises have helped many people reduce stress and gain perspective.
Meditation is a prime example of the unity of mind and body. Mental stress can speed the heart and raise the blood pressure meditation can actually reverse the physiological signs of stress. Scientific studies of Indian yoga masters demonstrate that meditation can, in fact, slow the , lower the blood pressure, reduce the breathing rate, diminish the body’s oxygen consumption, reduce blood adrenaline levels, and change skin temperature.
Although meditation is an ancient Eastern religious technique, you don’t have to become a pilgrim or convert to put it to work for you. In fact, your best guide to meditation is not an Indian spiritualist but a Harvard physician, Dr. Herbert Benson. Here’s an outline of what Dr. Benson has termed as the relaxation response:
1. Select a time and place that will be free of distractions and interruption. A semi-darkened room is often best it should be quiet and private. If possible, wait two hours after you eat before you meditate and empty your bladder before you get started.
Recommended Reading: Can Stress Raise Blood Sugar In Type 2 Diabetes
What Are The Psychological Benefits Of Exercise With Depression
Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
- Reduce stress
Because strong social support is important for those with depression, joining a group exercise class may be beneficial. Or you can exercise with a close friend or your partner. In doing so, you will benefit from the physical activity and emotional comfort, knowing that others are supportive of you.
Review Of The Problem
The association between physical activity , exercise, and health outcomes is well-established . In the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System database, the number of unhealthy days reported by 175,850 adults was inversely associated with PA . Those who exercise have a lower incidence of coronary events and cardiovascular disease. There is a strong inverse relation between exercise and obesity and diabetes mellitus . Furthermore, those who exercise have fewer incidences of certain types of cancers and more robust immune responses . Interventions designed to increase PA have resulted in profound reductions in physical ailments . There is a similar picture for exercise and mental health outcomes. Those who exercise suffer from less depression , anxiety , fatigue , and cognitive impairments .
Despite the well-known benefits of PA, the practice of this behavior is very low. Approximately 21.9 % of adults in the US participate in light-to-moderate leisure-time PA a minimum of five times per week, and only 11.1 % of adults engage in vigorous leisure-time PA at this same frequency . According to self-report data from the BRFSS, only 48.8 % of US adults meet the minimum level of PA necessary for maintaining good health as determined by the Healthy People 2010 objectives .
Don’t Miss: How To Relax And Stop Stressing
Physical Activity Reduces Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent ADAA survey on stress and anxiety disorders. When the American Psychological Association surveyed people in 2008, more people reported physical and emotional symptoms due to stress than they did in 2007, and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year.
Its impossible to eliminate, but you can learn to manage stress, and most people usually do. According to a recent ADAA online poll, some 14 percent of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress. Others reported talking to friends or family sleeping watching movies or TV , as well as eating and listening to music .
While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals. And among ADAA poll takers who exercise, a healthy percentage is already on the right track: Walking , running , and yoga are their preferred strategies.
Exercising Body and Mind
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
You Dont Have To Suffer To Get Results
Research shows that moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means:
Cant find time to exercise during the week? Be a weekend warrior
A recent study in the United Kingdom found that people who squeeze their exercise routines into one or two sessions during the weekend experience almost as many health benefits as those who work out more often. So dont let a busy schedule at work, home, or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the timeyour mind and body will thank you!
Also Check: How To Relieve Stress Anxiety And Depression
Stress Management And Exercise
As tweens and teens, managing stress well keeps us well! Think of it like tightening the strings on a guitar. If there is no tension, the strings make an odd sound when plucked. Tighten them too much and the strings will break. Finding the right amount of tension in the strings is the key to making good music. Similarly, its important to learn how to manage stress so the body is able to adjust the amount of tension it can handle. Integrating exercise and relaxation strategies into our lives is a powerful way to achieve balance.
Anxiety Sensitivity And Exposure
Anxiety sensitivity is a term for the tendency to misinterpret and catastrophize anxiety-related sensations based on the belief that they will result in disastrous physical, psychological, and/or social outcomes . McWilliams and Asmundson found an inverse relationship between anxiety sensitivity and exercise frequency and suggested that this relationship was due to avoidance of the physiological sensations of exercise that may be interpreted as anxiety and panic. A number of research studies have pointed to the effectiveness of short-term aerobic exercise to reduce anxiety sensitivity . Exposing someone with high anxiety sensitivity to the physiological symptoms they fear, such as rapid heartbeat, in the context of physical exercise increases their tolerance for such symptoms . This exposure reveals that the feared physiological sensations may be uncomfortable, but do not pose a serious threat . Repeated exposures through regular aerobic exercise may also facilitate habituation to the feared sensations .
Don’t Miss: How To Let Go Of Work Stress
Exercise As Stress Relief
When youve been diagnosed with heart disease, you need to manage a number of new stressors on an ongoing basis. Dealing with more frequent doctor visits, getting used to new medical treatments, and adjusting to lifestyle changes are just some of the factors that may cause you to experience stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to help relieve stress. Many of those steps can help improve your overall health as well, including the health of your heart. Exercise is one of the best strategies for combating stress and managing heart disease.
Physical activity can help lower your overall stress levels and improve your quality of life, both mentally and physically. Exercising regularly can have a positive effect on your mood by relieving the tension, anxiety, anger, and mild depression that often go hand-in-hand with stress. It can improve the quality of your sleep, which can be negatively impacted by stress, depression, and anxiety. It can also help boost your confidence levels.
How Does Stress Impact The Body
Not all stress is bad. In fact, many of the responses to stress such as quickened heartbeat, increased breath intake, and heightened brain function are all responses aimed to help a person survive a dangerous situation. Some stressors can even be positive, and motivate a person to be successful at work or achieve a hard-to-reach goal.
The impacts of chronic stress, however, are much more severe, as those sometimes life-saving responses to stressors have an impact on other systems. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the bodys immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should.
These problems typically subside once our body suspects that the threat has passed, but if the source of stress is constant, a number of physical and mental health issues can manifest.
Don’t Miss: Can Stress Cause Epileptic Seizures
Beneficial Effects Of Pa/exercise On Psychological Stress
When the PA and stress relationship is explored, it has typically been within the perspective of improving mental health outcomes via exercise . As suggested earlier, those who exercise have lesser rates of depression, negative affectivity, and anxiety . Indeed, PA and exercise have been demonstrated to promote positive changes in ones mental health and ability to cope with stressful encounters . Moreover, exercise interventions appear to improve ones depression status .
Relieve Stress Dont Create It
Most importantly, exercise should be fun. If participating in sports is just another form of pressure, it defeats the purpose. Find a way of being active thats enjoyable. Making time for exercise is a crucial part of having a healthy balance in life and keeping your mind focused and clear. The benefits that come from moving the body will help keep stress under control.
Also Check: How To Help With Stress Acne
Relationship Of Stress To Health Outcomes And Behavior
Psychological stress has a deleterious effect on a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes with accumulating evidence that health practices/maladaptive behaviors may mediate these relationships . Stress has been strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease and the incidence of acute myocardial infarctions . Those under high stress are less likely to survive cardiac events . Alterations in the immune system by stress are well-established , and those who report high levels of stress are more likely to become infected . The nervous system is also compromised during times of undue stress . Stress is associated with a host of mental symptoms as well, including cognitive dysfunction, dementia , and excessive fatigue . While stress may have a direct effect on health , indirect routes toward maladaptation also likely exist . For instance, stress is related to declining physical function over time and obesity , which contributes to cardiovascular disease. Another likely factor is impaired health/lifestyle practices and maladaptive behaviors, such as decreased exercise and PA and increased sedentarianism . Furthermore, delays in recovery from exercise and dampened muscular and neural adaptations are observed with chronic stress . It is of no wonder that individuals under high stress are much more likely to incur greater healthcare costs .
How Does Exercise Reduce Stress Surprising Answers To This Question And More
How does exercise reduce stress, and can exercise really be relaxing?
Rest and relaxation. It’s such a common expression that it has become a cliche. And although rest really can be relaxing, the pat phrase causes many men to overlook the fact that exercise can also be relaxing. It’s true for most forms of physical activity as well as for specific relaxation exercises.
Exercise is a form of physical stress. Can physical stress relieve mental stress? Alexander Pope thought so: “Strength of mind is exercise, not rest.” Plato agreed: “Exercise would cure a guilty conscience.” You’ll think so, too if you learn to apply the physical stress of exercise in a controlled, graded fashion.
You May Like: How To Deal With Stress For Kids
What Effect Can Chronic Stress Have On Your Health
Stress sets off a chain of events. The body reacts to it by releasing a hormone, adrenaline, that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. When stress is constant , your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time.
Chronic stress can take a physical toll on you. It can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable physical symptoms like headache and stomach problems. Stress affects the body in many ways.
Contrary Evidence For An Association Between Stress And Pa
Despite this evidence, some studies have found no association whatsoever between stress and PA. In fact, 34 studies in this review found no effect of stress on PA outcomes and several more found marginal or conflicting results . These studies frequently had less rigorous designs , smaller samples sizes , and very poor measures of PA/exercise and/or psychological stress . Stress management interventions have failed to demonstrate a concurrent increase in subjective and objective markers of PA , and stress did not appear to affect compliance with exercise programming . As mentioned above, eight prospective studies did not find a relationship. For instance, Grace et al. , examining a group of pregnant women over three time periods during and after pregnancy, found no relationship of role strain or pregnancy with PA.
Recommended Reading: How To Regrow Hair From Stress
Exercise Tends To Focus Your Mind On One Thing Instead Of Everyday Stressors
As we exercise, our brain will shift more and more focus onto that particular activity. Even if it’s subconscious, such as placing one foot in front of the other or taking another breath, your mind will gradually focus mostly on the activity you’re doing. This is more likely the higher the intensity of the exercise, as you may need to concentrate on the specific movements you’re doing.
Supporting Evidence For An Inverse Relationship Between Stress And Pa
3.2.1 Cross-Sectional, Retrospective, and Qualitative Studies
Studies conducted over a single time point have established an association between stress and PA. While two-thirds of cross-sectional studies reported a negative association of stress with exercise, qualitative and retrospective studies unanimously find evidence of an inverse association. These studies were typically of lower quality, with the exception of one study which reported that nearly 30 % of college students who were sufficiently active in high school did not attain this level of PA when transitioning to college .
3.2.2 Prospective Studies
You May Like: What Can I Do For Stress Relieve
The Impact Of Physical Activity On Stress
One of the most eminent stressors in students lives is academic stress .1 Students report experiencing AS at predictable times each semester with the greatest extent at the end of a semester, resulting from taking and studying for exams, grade competition and the large amount of time invested in studying.25
The effectiveness of AS as a psychosocial stressor is well established regarding repercussions on physiological and psychological health.6 It has been shown that AS has negative implications on physiological health variables, such as immune functions 7 and neuroendocrine functions .8 Furthermore, in AS periods, different effects on psychological parameters can be detected, such as increased anxiety,9 poor sleep quality,10 a negative effect on well-being,11 increased negative affectivity12 and increases in the prevalence of depressive symptoms.13 Based on these findings, it can be assumed that times of high AS have a negative impact on health-related physiological and psychological outcomes.
Although participants enrolled in different faculties, most of them were psychology students . They, however, were able to gain participation credits by providing their code after study termination.
Task and procedure
Positive and negative affect
For all dependent variables, results are discussed in more detail in the following section.