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Exercise offers relief from anxiety

Exercise offers relief from anxiety

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How can exercise help to manage anxiety and boost your mood? Personal trainer Andrew Cate investigates.

We know that regular exercise is great for our physical health and wellbeing, but did you also know these benefits extend to our mind and moods1a?

People who participate in regular physical activity are less likely to either have mental health disorders, or develop them in the future.

Physical inactivity may be associated with the development of mental disorders such as anxiety.

How does exercise deliver mental health benefits?

According to a research review on exercise for mood and anxiety disorders, people readily report that their feelings of anxiety diminish with regular exercise, triggering an overall sense of well-being.

The researchers claimed that the benefits of exercise are far reaching, including improved resilience to stress. Exercise produces psychosocial benefits and improved quality of life.

It's thought that exercise may play an important role in mood elevation, and produces the same neuro-chemical changes that are often targeted by medication.

In addition, exercise helps to boost self-efficacy, the belief in your own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. Studies have even shown that self-efficacy in itself can have some effect in improving low mood.

The how to..

Exercise can play an important part in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of many conditions, including anxiety disorders.

The challenge is to find the optimal mix of exercise type, intensity, frequency and duration, as this may vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, and the individual.

Focus on cardio

Research has shown that patients with generalised anxiety derive greater benefit from aerobic exercise training compared to strength or mobility exercises. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling.

Include higher intensity exercise

One study showed that vigorous exercise participation was related to lower emotional distress. Additional research found that high-intensity exercise was more effective in treating mental health problems compared with low intensity activities such as stretching.

Start out gradually

People with mental health issues are often sedentary, overweight, and have reduced work capacities, making goals such as walking 10,000 steps unrealistic. Identify your staring point, and gradually build up from there.