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How does exercise help with anxiety?

Anxiety sucks. However, it is surprising how so many things can help you counteract it. One great way to battle it is by exercise.

Exercise is great for enhancing mood, but how does it do so? Few people know what exercise does to your body and why is it so helpful. So, here I am going to tell you why doctors, psychiatrists, and health experts are so intent on promoting exercise. Once you find out the benefits, you will be convinced of its effectiveness for sure.

What exactly does it do?

So, how does exercise help anxiety? There are a number of ways that exercise contributes to your mental wellness. They include:

  • The mood enhancing chemicals, exercise sets a complex cycle into motion that results in the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These are the chemicals that promote euphoria. They act on the brain and make you feel good. In this manner, they can help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Get rid of toxic metabolites, exercise increases your blood flow to the liver and kidneys and also accelerates the slow movement of blood in the other parts of the body. This shifts all the toxic chemicals accumulating in different areas of the body and takes them to the liver and kidney for removal. Once your body is detoxified, you will feel much lighter and fresher which help counteract your anxiety.
  • Increases body temperature, you may be surprised to know that an increase in temperature can have a calming effect on your body. Exercise increases your body temperature and helps soothe your brain to help you deal with the disorder.
  • Removes the adrenaline from your system, the constant stress pumps your body full of adrenaline, which keeps your body ready to fight or flight. However, in usual daily situations, we need to do neither, and the effects only add up to result in an anxiety attack. Exercise helps burn out the adrenaline in a constructive way. This regains the hormonal balance so that the body can relax.
  • Rhythm, daily exercise creates a rhythm for your body. The regular rhythm and flow contribute relaxes your mind and aids in counteracting anxiety. This is why many people head out to jog when they feel upset or cluttered in their mind.
  • Exercise promotes sleep, a common problem with people suffering from anxiety is a lack of sleep. Constant insomnia and troubled nights only exaggerate the conditions. Exercise, on the other hand, can help break the cycle. It tires your body in a good way so that you sleep better at night, which helps your body in regeneration and repair.

What emotional benefits does it provide?

All these benefits target your body, giving you relief from all that stress and anxiety. However, this is not the end of the story. Exercise has an enormous range of emotional and psychological benefits as well. It is all these things that work together to create the perfect balance. Once your emotional, physical and psychological health is improved, the anxiety can be controlled. Below I describe the other benefits of exercise that come with the physical ones:

  1. Improves confidence, exercise improves your weight. Achieving your goals and getting in shape can make you feel a lot better. This helps to improve the symptoms of anxiety.
  2. Remove the worries, exercise, it's a sport. The time that you spend exercising can become your refuge away from the daily stresses of life. This helps give your mind a break, which is great for alleviating anxiety.
  3. Helps you cope in a healthy way, where some people can decline o worse conditions by turning to alcohol and drugs, exercise is a healthy way out of the problem. It promotes happiness and contentment and helps heal your mind simultaneously.

What counts as exercise?

Now that you know how exercise is beneficial for your body, how do you know that which exercise will make a difference? Does taking a stroll outside, count as exercise or do you have to do a proper routine at the gym to avail the benefits. Well, you will be pleased to find that any physical activity is beneficial to your health and can improve your mood. Although physical activity and exercise are not the same things, their results have similar benefits. Contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn't mean that you have to run laps at the gym. It can include a number of different activities.

Where running, lifting weights and swimming are effective ways to get your heart racing and your mood lifted, so is gardening, taking a walk outside and even washing the car. What you need to understand is that your body should engage in a different and entertaining task that utilises mind and physical body. Anything that will get you off the couch and in your shoes is good, as long as it's a safe and healthy activity.

You do not have to do all the exercise at once. You can divide your physical activity into small sessions throughout the day. This will make you look forward to these brief periods of relaxation. Another thing that you can do is incorporate exercise into your life. Some people find it hard to devote time to themselves. They can also exercise, regardless of their lack of time. Simple things like taking the stairs, walking to work or choosing to ride a bike instead of driving a car are things that can get your blood pumping and your mind relaxed, without costing you too much time.

How much do I need to do?

Another frequently asked question is how much exercise will help your anxiety. The thing is that any exercise or physical activity will help you counteract your anxiety. You need to make an effort to get out there and be regular. Research suggests that exercising for only 30 min a day for 3 to 5 days can help improve your anxiety disorder significantly. However, even 5 to 10 minutes of exercise can help with your mood. The real thing is trying consistently because every step you take will make a difference.

The thing is that the benefits of exercise will only last if you do it with persistence. Just going out one day and forgetting all about it, will not work. Your body needs the exercise, and you need to make an effort to go at it every day. This ensures that all the cleansing and the release of beneficial chemicals in the body is constant. It also prevents your body from sliding back into the gloom of depression. Persistent exercise will make all these effects permanent which will help you to get rid of anxiety for good.


Considering all these factors, it is evident how incredibly beneficial exercise is for your health. Not only does it help your mind and sense, it's beneficial for your health also. When something has so many benefits, it's hard not to try it for yourself. Just spend some time outside, you will notice the difference yourself, for sure!


Published 17 July 2017. Written by Sarah Brightworth.

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