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How Exercise May Alleviate Anxiety

Strength Training. Workout Arms. Exercise. Solidarity.

Exercise & It’s Positive Impact on Mental Health

How you can achieve elevated mental wellness through exercise

For those who don’t workout, the idea of lengthy workout programs, sweating, affected time management, or exhaustion may come off as anxiety-inducing. What if your anxiety surrounding healthy activities could be mitigated by the effects of participating in exercise? This might sound absurd, but “runner’s high” is a real thing, and anyone is able to achieve that state.  Although it may require overcoming a few fears regarding exercise, the benefits of a consistent workout practice certainly outweigh the reasons for hesitance in beginning exercise.

Anxiety

Anxiety is something that many Americans know and potentially suffer from today. It may show up for us temporarily in new environments or situations which make us feel uncomfortable, but chronically stressed workers, students, and other individuals may experience long-lasting symptoms which may indicate an anxiety disorder. Due to the cultural emphasis on productivity, and a lack of cultural emphasis on self-care, anxiety disorders are unfortunately more common than one might assume.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, 19.1% of Americans have suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year and over 30% are estimated to experience anxiety during their life. The DSM-5 recognizes the endurance of excessive stress due to life activities such as school and work as a common identifiable factor in generalized anxiety disorder. Treatment practices for anxiety disorders often include psychoactive medications and methods of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Although these methods are very effective in treating anxiety disorders, studies have shown that various forms of exercise are a great way to naturally mediate  anxiety symptoms. This makes workouts a great thing to add to your mental health care regimen, on top of receiving professional treatment if you already do.

Working Out Helps

A review of 15 studies revealed that moderate and high-intensity exercise aids in the treatment of anxiety, with high-intensity exercise having a more significant effect. Several months after this, long term effects of working out were assessed in both high intensity and moderate-intensity groups – with high-intensity training maintaining better results (1).

There are several reasons why working out aids in anxiety relief, but two main reasons include:

  1. High-intensity workouts encourage muscles to produce lactate. Lactate is then transported into the brain, where it aids in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and serotonin. The lack of norepinephrine and impacted serotonin production may lead to anxiety, as when these neurotransmitters are low – It negatively impacts our natural response to stress.
  2. Resistance and aerobic training lead branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, to muscle cells and the brain. Because BCAAs aid in the synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known as GABA) (2), relaxation is promoted on a neural level. GABA levels can be supported through regular exercise!

 

Exercise does not have to occur on a treadmill! If you aren’t a fan of commercial gym culture, or become bored easily through standard workouts, there are still plenty of ways to get moving. High intensity workouts for anxiety include weight lifting, swimming, endurance hiking, mountain biking, or jumping rope while moderate intensity workouts may include yoga, light dancing, or brisk walking. At IV Lounge, it is our mission to create a more health conscious, happier, world. If you would like assistance in beginning your fitness journey, give our team of wellness experts a call at 407.960.1000!

References

1.Aylett, E., Small, N. & Bower, P. Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Serv Res 18, 559 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5

2.Sweatt, Andrew J et al. “Branched-chain amino acids and neurotransmitter metabolism: expression of cytosolic branched-chain aminotransferase (BCATc) in the cerebellum and hippocampus.” The Journal of comparative neurology vol. 477,4 (2004): 360-70. doi:10.1002/cne.20200

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