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Can I exercise my way out of anxiety?

As a clinical psychologist I’ve witnessed first-hand the value of physical activity to complement other tools in managing anxiety. Research shows that exercise, such as a brisk walk, run or bike ride, can be helpful and may be may be one of the best nonmedical tools in the prevention and treatment of anxiety.

 

So how does it help?

  • Decreasing muscle tension- not to be underestimated is the influence of physical sensations in contributing to a sense of anxiety

  • Exercise can increase neurochemicals, such as serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and endocannabinoids all known to decrease anxiety

  • Distraction- it can divert your attention from the source of your worry

So what exercise should I choose?

 

Research has found effectiveness in most forms of exercise, so it may not matter which type you choose. Even more interesting, there are studies showing that a single session can be helpful. Multiple studies also suggest that there can be a preventative effect for those engaging in reguslar high levels of anxiety.

 

 

There are many other techniques that can also help with anxiety, speak to your psychologist or medical professional for more information. Although moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people, health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.

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