How Exercise Can Minimise Anxiety

Whilst we are already aware of the physical benefits of exercising thanks to personal experience and health experts who encourage us to get off the coach and work out, there are many mental health benefits too.

How exercise can minimise the anxiety symptoms and give us some rest-bite


Exercise during anxiety can act as a kind of therapy. I know that when I experienced high anxiety I would feel a lot better when I went for a brisk walk. Walking is probably the best form of exercise one can do during anxiety because it’s not strenuous and it still has many health benefits.

When we exercise, our brains release ‘feel good’ chemicals. But what actually happens? During research I stumbled upon an article which mentioned how we feel happier when exercising. Below is an excerpt:

“If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising and eventually happy. At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, is released in your brain.”

So it makes sense as to why exercise is known to be a great stress reliever and thus helps to eliminate anxiety symptoms.

Extra information – If you would like to learn the Science behind the fear disorder anxiety and why we still experience it even when a threatening situation has passed then read what I’ve written below.

The Science behind Anxiety


You see anxiety is a disorder of the emotion of fear. My anxiety recovery mentor Charles Linden likens anxiety to fear diarrhoea. Normal bowel movement is order whilst diarrhoea is disorder. In the same way that fear is order whilst anxiety is disorder.

Fear is a normal emotional response which is activated whenever we come into contact with something dangerous in our external worlds. Anxiety happens when the emotion of fear has been maladjusted at a higher inappropriate, disorderly level.

Fear is actually a physical thing.

Our senses detect something potentially threatening to us in the environment, the senses gather the data back to the subconscious mind which then determines whether this is a threat or not. If it is deemed threatening, the subconscious mind will release adrenaline into the bloodstream which allows us to either fight or run from the danger.

We keep the fear alive by giving our power away to the thoughts and sensations of the normal fear response


When a threat in our environment has passed, all of the unpleasant but completely harmless sensations and thoughts subside and we return back to emotional balance. There will probably be some leftover adrenaline for a little while but this will also settle back down into balance.

As an example, we are driving along the road and we see a dear ahead, our senses send back this information to the subconscious mind and the subconscious perceives this as a danger. We see the dear, we respond with fear, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream preparing us to  either fight or flee from the perceived danger. In this case there is nothing to fight so will be try and avoid crashing and killing the dear.

In this situation I don’t think there would be enough time to think about what to do or how to respond because it is happening so quickly. More than likely our instincts will kick in and we’ll do all we can to avoid hitting the dear.

So after we deal with the scary situation, we slowly after about a minute or so calm back down again. That unpleasant and possibly life-ending situation has passed so there is no reason to feel threatened. Once the subconscious mind gathers this data, then we naturally reset back to order and balance.

But… Why is it that sometimes long after the threat has gone we still experience fear?

Well like I mentioned earlier, we no longer experience the true emotion of fear, we experience the disorder of fear – anxiety. This is when we know if it has become a part of our mental state. If there is a threat in our immediate environment then we know it is completely appropriate to respond with fear. If there is no immediate threat and we are safe, then we know that it isn’t appropriate to respond with fear.

This is when our mind takes over and starts coming up with worst case scenarios and stresses us out. It’s our over-active imagination at work.

We consciously make a decision that the thoughts and sensations of anxiety are harmful to us so this perpetuates the anxiety. We are experiencing the normal fight or flight response inappropriately because we are consciously fearing how we feel.

 


Where I got the information from

  • https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
  • https://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier
  • https://www.thelindenmethod.co.uk/science