3 Ways Exercise Reduces Anxiety
You’ve probably heard that exercise is good for stress reduction (insert Elle Woods quote about happy people not killing their husbands here), but did you know that there are an abundance of science-backed ways that exercise authentically calms us and our anxiety?
The best part is that this typically happens when we’re engaging in movement we enjoy. So, no, you don’t have to be a marathon runner or Olympic athlete to reap the benefits of movement!
How does this happen?
- Elle Woods did have a point… When we exercise, our brains release feel-good neurotransmitters (a fancy word for chemical message-carriers) called endorphins. Any aerobic activity can inspire this release, so invest time in activities that bring you feelings of joy and pleasure — from rollerblading to recreational kickball, and even water basketball.
- Helps complete the stress response cycle… Our brains are programmed for survival, which means that they’re constantly scanning our environment for potential threats. While this used to look like bears and mountain lions, now we’re faced with irritable partners and micromanaging bosses – our brains can’t tell the difference! Because we’re often stuck in a “freeze” response (we can’t always yell and flail at whomever we please), that stress inevitably gets trapped in the body. Exercise is a fantastic way to physically help release that stress!
- Practice acknowledging and letting go… We can’t control our thoughts, but we can control our response to them. We may have a tendency to get inside our own heads and ruminate on critical thoughts when we exercise (“Why do I look like that” “I can’t believe I have to modify this” “I shouldn’t be so tired”). Being aware of this process means we get to practice metacognition — being aware of our own thoughts — and subsequently choose what we want to get attached to. The critical thoughts keep us stuck in shame; when we choose to honor values like compassion, patience, and connection, we give ourselves the opportunity to become more skilled at acknowledging our own thoughts without judgement (aka mindfulness!).
GETTING STARTED WITH THERAPY
Ready to learn more about exercise values and intentions-setting? Check out our Intuitive Movement Masterclass to develop a more compassionate, authentic, and intuitive relationship with movement, and reach out to our team to find the best therapist fit for you!