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How Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety

Fitness can go a long way when it comes to managing anxiety. Here is how Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety on a daily basis.

I’ve had anxiety for a few years now. Not really sure where or when it started but I deal with it on a daily basis. On some days it is barely there, and on some days it’s almost crippling.

My anxiety stems from several things but mainly just life. I worry about my children (a lot), their health, their social adaptation to school. I worry also about my job, if I’m in the right place or do I need more? Let’s just put it this way, if I am emotionally connected to it, I likely have anxiety over it.

As I haven’t visited a doctor to discuss (yet), I’ve been using fitness to help me calm the worry. To be completely honest most days I am so tired (or lazy) that working out seems like the biggest task ever. The excuses begin coming in like rapid fire and all of a sudden I’ve convinced myself to skip a workout. Then I remember that exercise not only calms my anxiety it wears my body out so that I can sleep at night.

A few months ago when my anxiety was at its worst, I’d get up at 2am and worry about significant and insignificant things. The worst part was that I never went back to bed–with an early wake up call of 5am, this would only compound the problem and led to very tired work days.

How Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety

As an African American woman I am not ashamed to say that I suffer from anxiety. Mental illness is very rarely discussed in our community and we need to start talking about it–like yesterday.

This is all brand new for my husband who has been with me 18 years. I try to give him warning on bad days by telling him my “anxiety is on fleek” so he knows that I will likely be trying to fix all the problems that ever existed in about 30 minutes. On those days there are three things that really help me to relax and regain control of the situation.

Here is why fitness helps manage anxiety

The Therapeutic Power of Fitness in Managing Anxiety

In an age where mental health discussions are gradually gaining the attention they deserve, understanding the role of fitness in managing anxiety becomes crucial. Exercise isn’t just a regimen designed for physical well-being; it’s a holistic approach that can profoundly affect mental and emotional health. The relationship between fitness and anxiety management is supported by both scientific research and anecdotal evidence. Here’s how engaging in regular physical activity can be a powerful tool in your arsenal against anxiety.

The Biochemical Impact: Endorphins and Neurotransmitters

One of the most immediate benefits of physical exercise is the release of endorphins, also known as the body’s “feel-good hormones.” Endorphins act as natural analgesics, which means they reduce pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria. Additionally, exercise can balance neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which play significant roles in mood regulation. This biochemical process is often likened to the effects of anti-anxiety medications but without the potential side effects associated with pharmaceutical treatments.

How Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety

The Cognitive Shift: Mindfulness and Mental Focus

Fitness activities, especially those that require concentration like yoga or complex workout routines, encourage a form of mindfulness. The focus on bodily movements and breathing patterns creates a meditative state that distracts the mind from anxiety-inducing thoughts. This shift towards a more present, concentrated state of mind can mitigate the overwhelming emotions associated with anxiety, at least temporarily.

Energy Regulation and Sleep Improvement

Anxiety often manifests through physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, and insomnia. Regular physical activity expends pent-up energy, thereby reducing feelings of restlessness and nervous tension. Moreover, exercise can improve sleep quality by helping regulate circadian rhythms and making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Sufficient, high-quality sleep is crucial for managing anxiety, as sleep deprivation can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Structuring Your Day: The Importance of Routine

Engaging in a fitness routine offers something invaluable: structure. The very nature of a routine provides a sense of normality and control, which can be incredibly comforting for someone dealing with anxiety. Knowing that you have a set time to focus on your physical well-being can bring a semblance of order to what might otherwise feel like a chaotic mental landscape. This can help mitigate the feelings of unpredictability or helplessness often associated with anxiety disorders.

How Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety

Community Support and Social Interaction

Fitness isn’t always a solitary endeavor. Group exercises like Zumba, team sports, or even a simple jog with a friend offer the added benefit of social interaction. For many, the sense of community and shared objectives can be uplifting. These social aspects act as additional buffers against anxiety, providing emotional support and even accountability, which can be particularly beneficial when anxiety makes it difficult to maintain a consistent fitness routine.

Fitness is a multi-faceted approach to managing anxiety. Fitness helps anxiety in so many ways! Its benefits range from biochemical changes that improve mood, to cognitive shifts that reduce mental clutter, and structural routines that bring a sense of order and control. Plus, the potential for social interaction adds an extra layer of support. While exercise is not a replacement for professional medical treatment for anxiety disorders, it is a highly effective supplemental strategy that can significantly improve quality of life.

Have you or someone you know ever had anxiety? How does fitness help you daily?

What are some other awesome fitness posts to check out?


Wednesday 25th of May 2016

So sorry to hear that you deal with anxiety on the regular. Oh to be young and carefree again, no? Definitely agree that fitness helps to soothe anxiety. I don't know that I could have lasted as long as I did at my last job if it weren't for the gym in the same building. Lunch breaks were my decompress time, as I would pound my frustrations into the treadmill. It was total gym therapy.


Tuesday 24th of May 2016

Great post Nellie! I had severe postpartum anxiety and realized that I also suffered from acute anxiety after my first year of law school. I am an anxious person in general and still suffer low levels of anxiety in new situations or when I'm facing something big or important. I think it is so important to talk about these things. And yes, exercise is a huge help!


Tuesday 24th of May 2016

Great post. I can relate on so many levels. Fitness is how I fight anxiety as well.


Tuesday 24th of May 2016

Love these tips. I use to be okay with anxiety but as I am getting older it's getting worse.


Monday 23rd of May 2016

I appreciate you sharing this, because I always think of you as someone with zero anxiety. I know that sounds funny, but maybe it's just zero anxiety that you let stop you. I'm trying and mostly succeeding in that. I will tell you that I HAVE been to the doctor about anxiety and you know what he prescribed? Exercise. I think it's working.