Can Exercise Treat Stress and Anxiety? Science Says Yes.

The health benefits of exercise are well established in science. The benefits of regular exercise include – but are not limited to – weight loss, reducing risks for chronic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes), building strong muscles and bones, improving cognitive function and decreasing your risk of Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, managing hormone regulation, increasing energy levels, improving sleep, increasing sex drive, reducing pain, and effectively treating stress and anxiety. Simply put, exercise is critical to maintaining a healthy life, but

Can it actually treat stress and anxiety?

Exercise produces endorphins which are widely understood to improve your mood and reduce stress hormones. Furthermore, it can relieve tightness and tension throughout your body which are commonly associated with stress and anxiety. Regular exercise has also been shown to decrease the intensity in which one feels the physical and mental symptoms of stress and anxiety. Many studies have been conducted on this topic, let’s take a look at a few.

In a study published by NBCI, National Center for Biotechnology Information, in 2016 entitled “Intensity of treadmill walking exercise on acute mood symptoms in persons with multiple sclerosis”, researchers concluded definitively that there was a direct correlation between moderate-intensity treadmill walking and a measurable improvement in overall mood. Read the results of the study here.

Exercise has also been shown to be as effective as medication in relieving symptoms of anxiety. 

Another study published in 2016 by NBCI looked at 24 women who had depression. The study effectively showed that exercise of “any intensity” significantly improved their symptoms. That study can be found here.

The effects of exercise on mood are so powerful that it can effectively treat, or help you better manage, the stresses of daily life. Now that we have established this to be true, let’s take a map out the best way to get started.

  1. First check with your Doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough for exercise. Once you have their approval, move on to the following steps.
  2. Start slowly and make realistic and achievable goals. It’s fantastic to feel motivated – but it’s common to take on too much too soon and burn out. Based on your current fitness level, decide what your next step should be; whether just walking for 30 minutes 3x per week or hitting an intense CrossFit class is logical for you. Slowly increase your frequency and your output as your body adapts.
  3. Find accountability in a trainer, loved one, or a fitness tracker. Set your schedule a week ahead of time and hold yourself to it. Track your workout and your metrics and take pleasure in seeing the improvements week over week. This will motivate you to keep going!
  4. This will become a joyful and natural part of your life, but not right away. Have realistic expectations of yourself and expect that this will feel hard at first. Push yourself to do it and know that you will one day soon be very grateful that you stuck with it.
  5. Do what you love. Whether it be running, weightlifting, kickboxing, or swimming, find what you enjoy and reward yourself with it. Cross-training is always recommended, but start with something active that gets you up and moving. Once your fitness is better established, you can work on diversifying your training.

If not for the anxiety and stress benefits alone, get yourself moving because of the vast overall benefits for your health and wellbeing. Your mind and body will thank you for it!

To reduce the risk of injury, before beginning this or any exercise program, please consult a healthcare provider for appropriate exercise prescription and safety precautions. The exercise instruction and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply