Stress, tension, worry, panic – everyone could say they’ve experienced some form of anxiety in some way, shape or form. Shockingly, anxiety disorders now affect 40 million adults worldwide. As a result, scientists are trying to determine the best way to treat this mental health disorder. The verdict? One of the most effective treatments can be exercise!
Most health experts would agree that regular aerobic exercise relieves tension, stabilises mood, improves sleep and enhances self-esteem. Aerobic exercise (commonly called ‘cardio’) is any type of exercise that stimulates the heart rate for a prolonged period of time – be it dancing, cycling, running, boxing, swimming or a brisk walk. The best part? It only takes a little to gain a lot, with as little as five minutes of aerobic activity (e.g. stair climbing) shown to bring on stress-relieving benefits. It all adds up!
When you compare physically active people to inactive people, studies show that those who move regularly are 25 per cent less likely to develop long–term stress or anxiety in the next five years. While one exercise session is no permanent fix for stress or anxiety, it soothes the body for several hours – similar to taking an aspirin. And when it comes to long-term management of anxiety, a regular exercise schedule can significantly reduce symptoms over time.
Everyone is different, some people instantly feel the stress-relieving powers of exercise; others don’t. Some people are genetically prone to anxiety; others have it brought on by external triggers like financial or relationship issues; however everyone has something to gain from exercise, such as getting an endorphin hit (euphoric hormones) that help to counteract cortisol (stress hormones). What’s more, the quality of your sleep will improve and there’s increased likelihood your eating habits will also improve.
If you’re new to this whole exercise thing, you’re probably feeling a little daunted. Here are some tips to get you going: Start small. Going for a brisk walk or light cycle at the gym is a great way to ease into things while still reaping the positive benefits. Don’t go it alone. Join a gym and try some classes or enlist the expertise of a Personal Trainer. Training under the guidance of a professional will help you stay motivated and train correctly. Get up early. There’s been a lot of debate over the best time to exercise. But studies have shown that morning exercise is also an effective way to set a positive tone for your day. Mix it up! If the sun’s shining take your exercise outdoors. Natural surrounds and sunlight can further assist in enhancing your mood.