Anxiety is one of the fastest growing mental health conditions globally, but exercise can help many with a calmer, more grounded life.
Have you ever experienced a racing heart or shortness of breath, a sensation of the world closing in or an impending sense of doom? It may be you had an anxiety attack and you are not alone.
Anxiety is now the most common emotional health disorder. But there is hope. Research suggests moving your body may just look after your head.
Anxiety is a normal adaptive response to stress that allows coping with adverse situations. However, it is uncomfortable and if it becomes excessive it can be a disabling disorder preventing you from really living your life. Traditionally, medication and cognitive behavioural psychotherapy have been the go-to treatments for anxiety, but more and more research points to exercise as an equally, if not more, effective tool for when you feel life is just too much.
A recent review of anxiety studies has found that 91% of participants had success in controlling or at least reducing the symptoms of anxiety through exercise.
Even if you haven’t experienced it, you have probably heard of runners high – the feel good feeling that runners report they experience from the ground pound. Well now there is research to back up their claim. Several studies have found that repeated exposure to running decreases sensitivity to anxiety related sensations.
If you don’t like running fear not, whilst the bulk of research may have focused on the benefits of huff and puff exercise, resistance training also gets a big thumbs up. It is not that a dumbbell can make less bad and more good things happen in your life, but that it changes how you experience your response to anxiety. Perhaps increasing your body’s ability to deal with physical discomfort enables you to cope better with emotional discomfort.
It appears men experience the anti-anxiety benefits of exercise immediately, whereas women need a few months to catch up. The message is clear, make exercise a lifelong habit for the good of your head, as well as you booty.
This is a simple ‘grounding exercise’ that can offer immediate help if you feel overwhelmed or you have lost control of your surroundings, until you can don your runners or get to the gym.
Look around you and find…
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
And 1 thing you can taste.
All of the above will help you be present immediately.
By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub