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How To Reduce Anxiety Using Exercise

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How To Reduce Anxiety Using Exercise

The benefits of exercise to our physical health are enormous. Exercise helps us to lose or maintain our weight, build lean muscle mass and burn fat. It also helps to support a healthy cardiovascular system and reduces our risk of developing chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and certain cancers. 


However, there are benefits to our mental health too. Regular exercise supports a good mood, improves our sleep, gives us more energy and boosts our confidence. It can also help to manage anxiety. 


Anxiety affects most of us in today’s busy and often stressful world. The NHS describe anxiety as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear”. It can be mild and short lived, such as if we’re fearful of an upcoming job interview or date. This is considered a normal response to feelings of nervousness. 


Or, anxiety can be severe and can affect someone’s life on a daily basis, preventing them from living a ‘normal’ life free from worry and fear. This is known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and causes a sufferer to feel constantly anxious about a broad range of different things. 


This kind of chronic anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms including a constant feeling of worry or restlessness, difficulty sleeping and finding it hard to concentrate. It may also cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart or feeling faint or dizzy. 


If this sounds like you, then it’s important that you seek medical help. You will be able to discuss your symptoms in confidence and your doctor can talk to you about possible treatments and therapies that can help you lead a more fulfilling life. 


Using exercise to help manage your anxiety will be helpful whether your anxiety is mild or more severe. This is because exercising releases feel good neurochemicals called endorphins. These neurochemicals include serotonin, which helps to make us feel happy, hence its nickname, the happy hormone. 


Serotonin helps us to feel more emotionally in control, and this stabilising effect helps us feel happier, more calm, more focussed, and crucially, less anxious. 


Aside from releasing happy hormones, the very act of exercising can help us to forget the things we’re feeling anxious about. Being physical can distract our minds from the worry and fear that we feel, so another big tick for exercise. It also helps to stretch and elongate our muscles, helping to relieve the tension that feeling anxious can cause.


Research suggests that the best way to release serotonin and all the other feel good chemicals is through aerobic exercise. This can include brisk walking, running, jogging, cycling, playing tennis or team sports. And the really good news is that Own Your Goals plans, whether Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced, all contain aerobic exercise. So wherever you are in your plan, do try to stick to it, as you’ll feel the benefits to both your physical and mental health.


Other, less vigorous exercise such as our Yoga and Pilates classes are also great for focusing and relaxing the mind, helping to minimise the racing feelings of overwhelm that come with anxiety. Try to add one or two of these sessions in per week, around your usual OYG plan and see how they can also benefit you. 


Finally, know that you’re not alone in feeling anxious. Even outside of the coronavirus pandemic, many people experience anxiety. Reach out to our OYG Community if you’re struggling to find the motivation to exercise if you suffer with anxiety. It’s a really fun and friendly group, and you’ll fit in marvellously.

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