A new year offers the potential for new opportunities and experiences, but for those who struggle with general and consistent anxiety, the prospect of the new year and the expectations that come with it can be tricky to maneuver. It’s with this in mind that our physical therapy team reminds you of one of the most natural and effective ways to ease anxiety symptoms any time of year: regular exercise.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated one in five adults and one in three teens experience chronic anxiety disorders each year. These disorders are characterized by anxiety that’s persistent, excessive, and routinely triggered by situations that aren’t actually threats. While anxiety is primarily a psychological condition, it can take a toll on one’s physical health.
The Physical Toll of Anxiety
High levels of stress and anxiety have been linked to various health issues, including higher blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, individuals with high levels of anxiety tend to be more sedentary and avoid challenging situations, which can also have long-term health consequences.
How Exercise Helps Ease Anxiety
Exercise can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety, and here are four ways it accomplishes this:
Changing Brain Chemistry
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals like dopamine and endorphins in the brain, contributing to feelings of calmness and happiness.
Reducing General Tension
Physical activity, whether it’s working out, competing, playing, or dancing, reduces general muscle tension in the body, decreasing overall feelings of anxiety.
Exercise can have a distracting effect, diverting your mind from anxious thoughts. Exercising outdoors, in nature, can also have a calming effect on the mind.
Boosting Cognitive Function
Several studies have shown that regular exercise can maintain and even improve cognitive function in the brain. This means that exercise can help you strengthen your ability to handle high-stress situations.
While exercise can be a valuable part of managing anxiety, it may not be a standalone solution for everyone. Those dealing with chronic anxiety should discuss treatment options with their personal physician.
Sticking with an Exercise Program
If you struggle to stick with a consistent exercise regimen, consider these tips:
- Find an activity you enjoy rather than merely joining a gym.
- Recruit a friend or friends for social support.
- Set SMART goals—goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Consult a physical therapist if pain, discomfort, weakness, or chronic conditions are hindering your ability to exercise safely and consistently.
Following an initial assessment, a physical therapist at ProFizix Physical Therapy And Wellness Center can develop a personalized exercise program tailored to your individual circumstances and goals. Incorporating exercise into your routine, along with other appropriate treatments, can contribute to a more effective, long-term approach to managing anxiety and improving your overall well-being.