Anxiety can destroy your life. It impacts every aspect. It can significantly affect habits, relationships, performance, and overall well being. We are going to talk about how exercise is the cure for anxiety.  Unfortunately people suffering from anxiety commonly choose harmful things to cope with the pain, such as alcohol, drugs, and junk food. They use anything that induces pleasure to escape from the stress of chronic worry.

Anxiety is a natural thing. It is an automatic response mechanism to stressful stimuli. Some anxiety is a good thing.

We are talking about daily chronic ‘impending doom’ type of worry. This kind of anxiety is a killer.

Psychological or Physiological problem?

Actually it is both. When we experience stress, our sympathetic nervous system gets stimulated and triggers the release of cortisal causing our blood pressure and blood sugar to rise. The fuel pumped into our blood stream gets us ready to move. Physically, our nervous system doesn’t decipher from the threat of a hungry lion or asking a girl out who is way out of your league. It only senses danger and wants you to respond in a way that will keep you alive or prevent you from embarrassment.

The mental side of things is all about perception. What do we think is dangerous? When you perceive a situation to be threatening that inherently isn’t, the physical response is the same.

Two people can have totally different perspectives. Both should probably take the lion serious. Remember, some anxiety is a good thing. Person A approaches the girl thinking, ‘what’s the worst that can happen? She says no? That’s cool, maybe her sister wants an awesome guy!’. Person B is terrified of being rejected and what it might do to his ego. No risk, no reward.

How to cope with anxiety

Chilling on the couch watching Netflix may offer some feeling of satisfaction temporarily. Drinking alcohol and eating poor quality food can make us feel better for a brief moment. But this approach just leads to further misery. Bad habits amplify the stress.

If you really want to beat anxiety you have to move. We were born to be active. Stress, as we mentioned, is not just mental, it is physical. When we get over stressed and we do not do anything to burn off the excess energy, major consequences kick in.

You can deal with anxiety in many ways but some are better than others.

  1. The negative approach. This one is easy.  Just pick a few temporal pleasures to help you escape your current state of mind and allow you to get through the day. This includes watching TV, drinking, using drugs, and other non-productive activities.
  2. The positive approach. Most people are not going this route because it is harder. It takes exertion and when anxiety has zapped your energy, expending more energy is not appealing. But, if you do it, the payout is amazing. This includes some form of physical exercising like running and a mental exercise like reading. Yoga may be the best answer. If you do not have a studio to attend or would prefer to get started on you own, there are great programs online to follow.  Check out Grokker.

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The combo of running and reading is another high-powered weapon against anxiety AND learning! Studies prove that exercise lights up areas of the brain responsible for learning just as it does for calming anxiety. The physical activity helps circulate the blood, getting nutrients and hormones past the blood-brain barrier. One chemical in particular that exercise has a big impact on is Brain-derived Neurotropic Factor, BDNF. BDNF helps build stronger connections between neurons. When you learn a new word, the connection between neurons is weak but after enough repetition the connection strengthens and it gets deposited into your memory bank.

What if you could do something to speed the learning process up while reducing anxiety? The answer is simple; do yoga, run, jump, hike, or skip for 30 minutes before tackling a big task or reading. That may not sound like fun but it is definitely the best thing you can do. Don’t just take my word for it, hear it from people way smarter than me.

Do two things every day, run and read” ~ Will Smith

John Ratey, MD is a psychiatrist and author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.He treats his patients with exercise. As an MD he also uses traditional medication but he believes if exercise were to be synthesized and made into a pill it would be the most powerful drug on the market. This is from years of research, studies, and experience. In his book Spark, he talks of a case study done at a school in Chicago where students ran every morning before first period. They wore heart rate monitors to ensure they were going at a necessary intensity. These students score significantly higher on standardized tests than students who did not exercise in the morning. Pretty cool stuff!

My anxiety

High anxiety is one of the reasons I chose the path I did. I’ve been a fitness professional for 11 years now. I went this route because I liked the way exercise made me feel and I saw what a lack of it could do to a person. My dad lived an unhealthy lifestyle. He drank hard liquor ever day, smoked over a pack of cigarettes per day, and worst of all did not exercise past the age of 30. Unfortunately his choices caught up to him.

I always thought alcohol was his problem. It was later that I realized, the real problems always lie underneath the habits. Bad habits are just the medicine. The real problem for my dad was his anxiety.  It was unbearable. He did not have any positive skills to combat the stress. It is sad knowing he was in pain and was trying to medicate himself. Had he known the right things to do, he’d be alive and well today.

I am fascinated with the power of simple lifestyle choices. It is incredible what a healthy diet and regular exercise can do for you. Working out, for me, is not about getting ripped and squatting heavy. It’s about how it makes me feel! I feel amazing after I workout.  I’m calmer, sharper, and I feel good about myself for a simple accomplishment. (OK, so it’s a little about looking good too…and lifting heavy..but mainly feeling good!)

Letting your anxiety go untreated

The consequences are not good. Here’s a list of some issues you can expect

  • Compromised immune system
  • Stomach problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Elevated heart rate
  • It can even cause a heart attack if not dealt with

What you can do right now to treat your anxiety

  1. First I recommend you make yourself, if you are not already, do some yoga, walk, or jog for half an hour every day. Start adding intensity each week. When you are feeling stressed and are about to reach for alcohol or sugar, try doing 20 squats instead. The result will amaze you. Just by moving your body a little, your mood changes.
  2. Meditation is simple and does not require much time. The benefits are immense. Mental clarity, enhanced self-awareness, focus, and many other remarkable side-effects. Reduce Stress, Sleep More Soundly, And Lead A More Successful Life With Guided Meditation Videos at a!
  3. Yoga is like the ultimate drug for treating anxiety. It is a mix of meditation and exercise. This exercise modality can change your life. Yoga is for everyone!.
  4. Changing your diet. It’s true, you are what you eat. Cleaning up your nutrition will improve your health in every capacity. Try it for a week and see if you agree with me. Get on a plan that has proven to work for others. One of the best plans to follow is the PaleoPlan.

The paleo plan gets you off harmful sugar. High sugar intake causes a lot of detrimental problems and can exacerbate your anxiety.

Get it going!

Don’t dwell on the consequences of anxiety; instead do something about it. Re-establish balance for your mind and body by doing some variation of exercise and reading every day.

The great thing about exercise and clean eating is that there are no negatives. It only yields positive results.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!