Exercise and Anxiety: How to Keep Anxiety at Bay

The beginning of a new year is an opportunity to start anew. A clean slate. A chance at making the new year the best one yet. But for some people, it can be a challenge. Financial stress, winter blues, and the holidays ending can dampen your mood and increase your worries. For some exercise enthusiasts, it can even demotivate them from exercising.

But an active lifestyle is vital in the battle to reduce stress and anxiety! [TWEET THIS!] According to a review by Harvard University, regular exercise can help improve the moods of people with mild to moderate depression and can even play a supporting role in people suffering from severe depression. Some studies in the Archives of the Internal Medicine also revealed that the effects of regular exercise can last longer than antidepressants!

Though a workout program isn’t the sole remedy for stress, it is still a great way to improve your mental health. Therefore it is paramount that you find a routine that is not only achievable but also something you genuinely enjoy doing.

“The psychological boost of adhering to a program that you enjoy doing is much greater than the reward you get from any single session,” Steve Edwards, Ph.D., a professor of sports psychology at Oklahoma State University, said.

Before we share with you some happiness-inducing exercises, do bear in mind that this article is no substitute for official medical advice. Always check with your doctor first before proceeding with any medical alternatives.

So without further ado, here are some exercises that can help you alleviate anxiety and stress!

Yoga

Generally, people choose yoga as their go-to workout to help relax their minds and bodies. The routine is essentially rooted in deep breathing and internal focus. According to a study led by David Shapiro, people who practice yoga experience significant reductions in anxiety, depression, anger, and neurotic symptoms.

Running

Running has several physical benefits. It helps strengthen bones, builds muscle, and even improves the immune system. But did you know that it has mental health benefits too? Like most exercises, running causes the body to release natural feel-good hormones called endorphins. This gives athletes a euphoric feeling after a good run. “Join a jogging or cycling club,” Edwards said. Exercising with your peers not only helps your mood but also motivates you to move!

Strength Training

People often associate strength training with body building. Did you know that it has several mental benefits? According to a study by Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., strength training routines help improve one’s memory, sleep quality, cognition, and self-esteem. In addition, it can also reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

NIA

Short for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, this exercise is a blend of martial arts, dance, and healing arts. [TWEET THIS!] It is often done barefoot and features a flowing sequence of movements that combines deep breathing exercises with kicks and turns to keep your heart rate elevated. Essentially, NIA is like an amplified version of yoga that is designed to keep your mind relaxed and your body active.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient form of martial arts that originated in China and dates back thousands of years. [TWEET THIS!] In its roots, tai chi is an exercise that incorporates mental concentration, physical balance, muscle relaxation, and relaxed breathing. A 2014 study led by Fang Wang found that people who regularly engaged in tai chi had improvement in areas of depression, anxiety, and stress management.

Dancing

Whether you attend Zumba classes at your local gym or groove to upbeat music in the comfort of your home, dancing can help you alleviate stress and anxiety. This is because music has also been found to be a mood booster.  In fact, studies show that dance classes can help reduce anxiety more than normal workout routines.

Hiking

People can benefit so much from hiking. It is a fun way to get out of the city and explore the great outdoors. Hiking is also a great cardio routine. In fact, spending time in nature  has several mental health benefits. According to research by Qing Li, people who regularly hike in wooded areas had lower levels of stress hormones than those who walk in urban areas.

Exercising has a lot of benefits that goes beyond your physical well-being. It’s a great way to keep your mental health in check, too! Whenever you’re feeling weighed down by stress, try stepping away from your daily life, and focus on staying active. [TWEET THIS!] Remember, a healthy body and mind go hand in hand!

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