These Are The Best Exercises For People Dealing With Anxiety
Believe it or not, anxiety disorders and exercise have an inverted relationship. Sedentary, isolated lifestyles tend to only exacerbate not-so-fun anxiety symptoms while getting up and out and moving significantly ease anxiety and improve mood. But that doesn’t mean that anyone feels inclined to exercise when they’re in the throes of an anxiety episode. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite.
So the trick is identifying your path of least resistance. People who are dealing with anxiety need to not only find activities they enjoy, but also make them as easily accessible as possible. So with those two things in mind, here are several options we (and science) recommend to get you going.
Start a daily meditation practice.
This might function more so as a mental exercise, but that doesn’t discount its incredible benefits. A 2017 study found that practicing mindfulness meditation for just eight weeks can actually alter the brain’s stress response in significant ways for people with generalized anxiety disorder. (And there’s plenty more research where that came from.) Plus, it’s a very inexpensive practice to pick up, and you can do it with help from apps or books or other experts around you. The options are endless.
And get on your yoga mat.
Yoga is very effective in mitigating major anxiety symptoms since it combines meditation with relaxing movement and deep breathing exercises. It’s also an easily accessible form of exercise that can pretty much be done anywhere and at any time. Whether you prefer to move through your own Vinyasa flow on your mat at home or attend a restorative yoga class or follow along with a yoga video from your favorite instructor, the benefits will abound. So ditch those expectations and just let your body move the way it wants.
Dance it out.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes a little fun and playfulness can be just what you need to snap you out of an unhealthy fixation on something that’s driving your feelings of anxiety. Dance movement therapy has been shown to help people reduce feelings of anxiety, catalyze creativity and feel more at peace with themselves. You can enjoy dancing in an aerobic-style fitness class or with a group of your closest friends in your own apartment — it’s totally up to you and what fits into your comfort zone.
Walk anywhere you can.
Talk about the exercise that you can do virtually anytime your body needs movement. Walking, especially daily for 30 minutes at a time, is extremely helpful in alleviating feelings of anxiety because of how it resyncs your mind-body connection without putting excess stress (like intense exercise would) on the body. It’s also a habit that’s a lot easier to maintain than most forms of exercise that require deeper skillsets or sticking to a class schedule. So lace up those shoes and head out for a walk around the block — or better yet, a hike up a mountain this weekend.
Or pick up a long-distance jogging habit.
If you’re already pretty physically active and ready to take on a more serious form of exercise, maybe now is the time to create a long-distance running routine for yourself. The extended period of constant cardio serves as a sort of moving meditation, keeps those “runner’s high” endorphins flowing and pulls your mind away from the anxious thoughts that don’t serve you. Plus, like walking, it’s an activity that you can keep consistent with because the only schedule you’re adhering to is your own.
At the end of the day, the best ways to keep yourself from falling victim to your anxiety symptoms is to keep your activity frequent (like, every day, if possible) and allow for variety in your routine so your mind doesn’t fixate too much on one particular activity or challenge. Plus, the more you explore, the more exercises you’ll find you actually enjoy. We just don’t recommend jumping into a crazy boot camp class blasting EDM when you’re having an off day. Learn how to give your body what it needs when it needs it, and you’ll feel more like yourself in no time.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Say hello to the best part of your day.