Anxiety is a mental health illness that affects nearly 40 million Americans, comes in many forms and doesn’t discriminate against age, race or gender. While numerous doctors will prescribe medicine to minimize symptoms, one of the most effective treatments lies in your bottom drawer. Yes, the one with all your forgotten yoga pants and sports bras in.
Exercise does wonders for the body and mental health, but does it have the power to reduce anxiety? TRAIN for HER investigates.
What is anxiety?
First and foremost, let us explain with what anxiety actually is. Almost everyone experiences feelings of unease at times. Deadlines, job interviews, exam periods, these are all perfectly common causes of stress and worry. However, once worrying becomes excessive and prevents you from living a healthy and normal life, that’s when anxiety disorders can start to manifest.
When our body gets stressed it jumps into fight or flight mode which releases cortisol, the stress hormone triggered by the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Excessive levels of cortisol left untreated can have damaging effects on our body and mind, leading to boosted sugar levels and triglycerides (body fats).
When these excessive fuels in the blood aren’t used for physical activities, cortisol can cause a variety of physical consequences, including:
• Digestive disorders
• Muscle tension
• Short-term memory loss
• Heart attacks
How can exercise help?
A natural stress reliever, getting your rate up is a sure-fire way of reducing the levels of cortisol in your body. Most people who suffer with anxiety disorders have excessive amounts in their body but exercise depletes it.
Pumping iron can have the same effect on your anxiety levels as some medication. The feel-good hormones, endorphins, are your body’s natural painkiller. They act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain and also act as sedatives. Although endorphins are released to prevent pain from exercise, they also regulate your mood and relax your mind.
Sleep it off
Many anxiety suffers struggle to get enough z’s, kept up by their brains worrying. A good night’s sleep is crucial for anxiety management and exercise can tire the body, making it easier to sleep. So, hit the gym before bed and you’ll start to sleep with ease.
– RELATED: This Type Of Yoga Can Help Reduce Depression –
Most effective exercises
According to research, there are three key activities that can help improve symptoms of stress and anxiety: running, yoga and hiking.
We have discussed the benefits of yoga here at TRAIN for HER before, because we love it! Countless studies have sighted yoga as a great way to reduce depression, reverse DNA reactions that cause stress and lessen neurotic symptoms which is why many researches recommend yoga as a complementary treatment for depression.
An all-round great way to keep fit. It torches calories, helps reduce food cravings and running for just five minutes a day could even help you live longer. It’s not just physiological, however. Running has also been shown to improve your mood as the repetitive motions appear to have a meditative effect on the brain.
Embracing the great outdoors does amazing things for our mental health as nature has a calming effect on the mind. So, a hike might be the perfect way to keep your anxiety at bay. A study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine found that participants who’d taken a 20-minute walk in the woods had lower cortisol levels than the others who had been through the city. Grab a dog (preferably yours) or a friend and become one with nature.
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