Charlotte Grainger

Can You Treat Anxiety by Working Out? Research Says Yes

woman doing workout


Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. As we look towards the New Year and you start making those all-important resolutions, it’s worth taking a minute to consider how you’re boosting your mental wellness. Within this guide, we will take a look at one of the most common issues people experience, some handy resources to support your mind, and how you can use exercise to manage it.

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Each year, a quarter of us will experience some form of mental illness with anxiety being one of the most common offenders. From Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to phobias and social anxiety, there are many different ways that this can manifest. Whatever your personal struggle, managing this common problem can be difficult. While there’s no magic cure, taking positive steps towards supporting your mental health is always a good move.

Managing this condition is tough. The physical symptoms of anxiety include a fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, a low appetite, sweating, and breathlessness. However, it doesn’t end there. The mental side effects include worries, stressing about the future, finding it hard to relax, struggling to get to sleep, having difficulty concentrating, and experiencing obsessive thoughts.

Luckily, there are resources out there that can help you manage your anxiety. If you’re experiencing the above symptoms, you may want to contact your GP for an appointment. Additionally, here are some of the resources you can use to get the support you need:

Of course, different approaches will work for different people. Figuring out the best coping strategy for you is an ongoing process. For that reason, you shouldn't be hard on yourself if one of the support lines doesn’t immediately help. Take the time to learn what works for you—from talking therapy to mindfulness—and take things from there.

Anxiety and stress

HOW EXERCISE CAN LOWER ANXIETY

Exercise can improve all areas of your everyday life. So, it should come as no surprise, one way that you may be able to relieve the symptoms of anxiety is to work out. Research from the University of Gothenburg found that both strenuous and moderate exercise can help people manage this mental condition and lower its symptoms.

"There was a significant intensity trend for improvement—that is, the more intensely they exercised, the more their anxiety symptoms improved," says Malin Henriksson, study author, doctoral student at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, and specialist in general medicine in the Halland Region.

The study lasted for 12 weeks and saw participants engage in regular high and low intensity workouts. During that time, the researchers found that working out had a positive effect on the symptoms of anxiety. While there are many treatment approaches to consider when dealing with anxiety, the study authors concluded that exercise should be an option.

"Doctors in primary care need treatments that are individualised, have few side effects, and are easy to prescribe. The model involving 12 weeks of physical training, regardless of intensity, represents an effective treatment that should be made available in primary health care more often for people with anxiety issues," said Maria Åberg, associate professor at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy, specialist in general medicine in Region Västra Götaland's primary healthcare organisation, and author.

women's yoga class

HOW TO STAY ON TRACK WITH YOUR WORKOUTS

Looking for ways to increase your exercise? It doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. No matter where you are in your personal journey, it’s important to motivate yourself. Here are three simple tactics you can use to get yourself up and moving:

1. Find a gym buddy

The first thing you may want to try is finding a gym buddy. Working out with someone makes hitting the gym a fun, social event. Ask your friends and family to see if any of them would like to work out with you. You may choose to meet them after work, at the weekend, or any other time you’re both free. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition.

2. Keep an exercise journal

 Not feeling it today? Perhaps having an exercise journal will help get you out of your seat. This is exactly what it sounds like. You get a notepad or diary and write down the different workouts you do each week. That way, you can easily keep track of how much you move.

3. Find an exercise class

If you’re completely unmotivated by the gym, there is another way to go. Why not find an exercise class that you truly enjoy. Whether you want to shake your stuff in Zumba or get your heart racing in spin classes, there’s sure to be a session that suits you. Take the time to look at both online and in-person classes and see which work for your schedule.

THE TAKEAWAY!

Mental health will always be a hot topic, and finding ways to manage yours is a must. Increasing your weekly exercise could be one way to approach your anxiety. However, you should be sure to contact a medical professional and get some support.