Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Many of us experience stress or anxiety daily, and for some of us, it interferes with our lives, according to a recent survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). It’s impossible to eliminate stress, but you can learn to manage it.
Exercise is the stress-busting technique most recommended by health care professionals. A third of us are already on the right track by walking for exercise. Others run or do yoga.
The physical benefits of exercise—improving physical condition and fighting disease—have long been known. But regular aerobic exercise can also decrease tension, lift and stabilize mood and improve self-esteem. It’s effective at reducing fatigue and improving alertness and concentration. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression say that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. A brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief.
Exercise as Part of Therapy
That’s why exercise is an integral part of every treatment program recommended by ADAA President and CEO Jerilyn Ross, MA, LICSW. “It’s one of the first things I tell patients, whether they are suffering from an anxiety disorder or trying to cope with everyday stress,” she says. “People may feel powerless in terms of home life, finances, or politics, but they’re in control when they exercise.”
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
Federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
If you have an exercise program already, keep up the good work. If not, here are tips to get you started.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with a portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.