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 Anxiety  Holistic-online.com


Exercise can help to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. By expelling your excess negative emotions and adrenaline through physical activity, you can enter a more relaxed, calm state of being from which to deal with the issues and conflicts that are causing your anxiety. Exercise is one of the most important coping medium to combat anxiety and stress.

Exactly how exercise helps in relaxation and stress management is not clear. The benefits of exercise can come from many factors: the decision to take up exercise, the symbolic meaning of the activity, the distraction from worries, the acquisition of mastery over a sport, the effects on self-image, and the biochemical and physiological changes that accompany the activity.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, releases hormones, stimulates the nervous system, and increases levels of morphinelike substances found in the body (such as beta-endorphin) that can have a positive effect on mood. Exercise may trigger a neurophysiological high-a shot of adrenaline or endorphins- that produces an antidepressant effect in some, an antianxiety effect in others, and a general sense of "feeling better" in most.

Michael H. Sacks, M.D.: Exercise For Stress Control

Regular exercise has a variety of psychological benefits that can help improve physical health. It acts as a buffer against stress and may thus help protect the cardiovascular and immune systems from the consequences of stressful events. Frequent exercise is an effective treatment for anxiety and, according to some research, is as effective as psychotherapy in treating mild or moderate depression.

Exercise seems to elevate mood both through its physiological effects on the nervous system and through its direct psychological effects: It provides a distraction from everyday concerns and offers an opportunity for positive fantasy. Although aerobic exercise offers the greatest cardiovascular benefit, any form of enjoyable exercise can give you a psychological lift and help counteract the effects of stress in your life.

Exercise can be a powerful method of relaxation, and it can help people deal effectively with the stress of daily life. In various studies, researchers have found that exercise can decrease anxiety and depression, improve an individual's self-image, and buffer people from the effects of stress. Not every study has shown the precise benefits the investigators were looking for; but taken as a whole, the research strongly supports the common experience that exercise can elevate mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Some early studies even suggest that the stress-reducing effect of exercise-not just its cardiovascular benefits-may help improve physical health.

Michael H. Sacks, M.D.: Exercise For Stress Control

Types of Exercise

There are three major types of exercise:


Aerobic Exercise


Nonaerobic Exercise


Skill development Exercise

Most exercise activities include more than one of these components.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is done at a pace that allows an adequate supply of oxygen to reach your muscles as you work out. If you can hum to yourself or carry on a conversation as you work out then you are probably exercising aerobically. This type of exercise can be continued for 20 to 45 minutes without being exhausting.

Examples: walking, jogging

Quickens the heart for sustained periods
Makes the cardiovascular and respiratory systems more efficient.

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercise involves intense or explosive spurts of strenuous activity that leave you gasping for breath. The exercise can only be done for a minute or two at a time, because it depends on a limited store of glycogens sugar stored in the muscles that is rapidly depleted, resulting in intense muscle fatigue.

Examples: weight lifting, sprinting full speed for 100 meters.

Develops speed, strength, and power. 
Builds muscle mass

Skill development Exercises

Skill development includes flexibility, balance, and coordination.

Examples: yoga, tennis, golf.

Affects muscular coordination, flexibility, balance, and tone.

All types of exercise can produce psychological benefits and help combat stress. Exercise can help you feel more focused and relaxed. Pick an exercise or activity that fits your personality and physical abilities and one that you enjoy.

Tips On Starting An Exercise Program


Make the activity as playful as possible.


Consider getting lessons and joining a group at first. Encouragement, direction, and group support can be very helpful at the beginning.


Exercise often. You should exercise three or four times a week for the physical benefits. More frequent exercise (four or five times a week) seems to maximize the psychological effects.


Start slowly. Many people try to do too much in a short time and that is a big mistake. Exercise should be gradually increased as your body gets accustomed to it. Listen to your body.

Exercise and Anxiety Reduction

Exercise may be helping to reduce your anxiety due to its proven effects in:


Stress reduction


Antianxiety effects


Antidepressant effects

Exercise and Stress 
Exercise and physical fitness act as a buffer against stress, so that stressful events have a less negative impact on psychological and physical health.

There is a growing body of evidence that regular exercise can help people stay healthy under stress. In this regard, exercise can work together with social support, positive attitudes, personality, and other factors that improve stress resistance.

There's also some evidence that regular exercise can improve the functioning of the immune system (although excessive exercise can actually decrease immune function). White blood cells increase for a period of time after exercise. This increase, however, may be too short-lived to have a major impact on immunity. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Miami found that a regular exercise program had beneficial effects on immunity in men infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

People who exercise regularly show a healthier response to emotional stress than sedentary people. Any kind of exercise can help buffer the effects of stress if it helps build a person's feelings of control, confidence, effectiveness, and mastery over life.

See Also: Exercise and Stress Management

Exercise And Anxiety

Several studies have conclusively shown that regular exercise has a "tranquilizer effect" that decreases anxiety.

Please note that your anxiety level actually increases when you first begin to work out. As you continue to exercise, the anxiety stabilizes. 5 to 30 minutes after you finish the exercise, if you are like most people, you will be less anxious than you were before you started. This decrease in anxiety from exercise has been shown to be greater than the effects of the tranquilizing drug meprobamate! It is quite significant.

Exercise is only a short-term fix for anxiety. The relaxation induced by the exercise lasts for only four hours or so. The anxiety returns to its previous level within 24 hours after a workout. So if you are suffering from chronic anxiety, you will have to exercise every day to see an effect. If you become anxious during the day such as the case if you experience job stress, you may want to exercise first thing in the morning. On the other hand, if you suffer from insomnia, you may want to exercise in the late afternoon. (Note: Exercising too late in the day may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.)

Studies are inconclusive when looking at whether you need a vigorous exercise to reduce anxiety. Some studies suggest that exercise should be fairly intense, but not exhausting, to best elicit the tranquilizer effect of exercise. Other researchers have found that light exercise, such as walking or swimming, decreases anxiety just as effectively as vigorous jogging does. Exercises such as golf, tennis, handball, biking, and other sports have shown to help people relax. Choose an exercise (the type and the level of exercise) that work best for you.

If you suffer from physical symptoms of anxiety such as gastrointestinal problems, sweating, palpitations, pacing back and forth, etc. you are very likely to benefit from physical exercise.

On the other hand, if your anxiety is caused by psychological causes such as worrying, difficulty concentrating, or intrusive thoughts, you may find more relief from mental exercises such as meditation, imagery, prayer or other form of mental relaxation.

See Also: Exercise and Depression

Exercise Can Become Stressful

Although exercise generally has positive psychological effects, under some circumstances it can actually lead to psychological problems.


1. A person who exercise regularly cannot continue with the exercise due to an injury. This makes him/her anxious or depressed. In some cases, the reaction may be so severe that they seek professional help.

2. Some people overdo it. Exercising too much lead to a state of fatigue characterized by anxiety or depression, insomnia, and a loss of interest in personal life. This usually happens to competitive endurance athletes, such as swimmers and distance runners. If you're exercising at a high level and are feeling down, ease up on the exercise.

Final Word

To be effective, you should exercise for twenty minutes at least three times a week. Before starting any exercise, check with your doctor to make sure that it is appropriate for you. Choose an activity that you enjoy and that you can easily fit into your schedule on a regular basis.

We recommend the following two exercises for your anxiety and stress management:


Tai Chi Chuan

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