Have you ever noticed that your anxiety seems to melt away when you hit the gym and break a sweat? It’s not just in your head — there’s actually science behind why exercise can have such a positive impact on your mental health. Many people believe that exercise cures anxiety, and here’s why.
Why do People Believe Exercise Cures Anxiety?
It Releases Endorphins
So, how does exercise reduce anxiety and stress? One of the most well-known reasons people believe exercise cures anxiety is the release of endorphins. When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases these natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins act as a natural painkiller and mood lifter, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. That’s why people often describe the post-workout feeling as a “runner’s high” or an “exercise-induced euphoria.”
Dr. Kevin Huffman, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, CEO & Founder at Ambari Nutrition, says, “Regular exercise has a positive impact on our mental well-being. It triggers the release of endorphins, natural mood enhancers that effectively reduce stress and anxiety levels. These endorphins not only boost our happiness and relaxation, but also alleviate any pain symptoms associated with anxiety.”
It Distracts You From Your Worries
At the gym, you focus on your workout routine, which temporarily distracts you from your daily worries and anxieties. This mental shift can provide a much-needed break from the constant rumination that often accompanies anxiety. The gym becomes a safe haven where you can momentarily escape the pressures and responsibilities of life.
It Can Boost Your Self-Esteem
Regular exercise can improve your physical appearance and fitness levels, boosting your self-esteem. When you feel better about yourself physically, you’re likely to feel better about yourself mentally. This improved self-image can help reduce the negative self-talk and self-doubt that often accompany anxiety. Additionally, doing positive affirmations or finding the positives in a negative situation can shift your mindset and boost your self-esteem. For example, during your workout, tell yourself, “I’m getting better and better every day.”
It Usually Involves Social Interaction
Many people find the gym to be a social hub, providing an opportunity for social interaction. Engaging with others during group fitness classes or simply sharing a friendly nod with fellow gym-goers and familiar faces can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social support is a powerful buffer against anxiety and depression.
It Can Improve Your Sleep
Exercise can lead to better sleep quality, which is crucial for managing anxiety. When you sleep well, your mind and body are more resilient against stress. Regular physical activity helps regulate your sleep patterns, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
It Can Strengthen Your Mind-Body Connection
Certain forms of exercise, like yoga or pilates, emphasize the mind-body connection. But so does weight lifting. When you lift weights, you’re actively engaging specific muscle groups, coordinating your breath with your movements and paying close attention to each rep. These breathing techniques and active engagement can effectively reduce anxiety.
“By strengthening the mind-body connection, exercise cultivates greater self-awareness and control, making it an effective tool for managing and even alleviating anxiety.” says Dr. Huffman.
When is the Best Time to Exercise for Anxiety?
The best time to exercise for anxiety can vary from person to person, as it often depends on individual preferences and schedules. However, many find exercising in the morning has unique benefits for anxiety management. Morning workouts can help kickstart your day with a surge of endorphins, setting a positive tone and reducing anxiety levels throughout the day. Additionally, morning exercise can improve your overall energy levels, making it easier to face the challenges and stressors that may come your way. Workouts as short as 10–15 minutes three to five times a week can drastically improve your mental health and many feel that exercise cures their anxiety.
That being said, the most important factor is consistency. Whether it’s morning, midday or evening, regular exercise plays a significant role in managing anxiety, so choose a time that suits your lifestyle and allows you to maintain a consistent workout routine — it’s all about finding the best time to exercise for anxiety for you.
“Research shows that exercising on a regular basis can release natural chemicals in your brain such as endorphins and endogenous cannabinoids. Specifically any type of exercise such as swimming, running and biking that improves oxygen circulation to the muscles in your heart and lungs can reduce anxiety.” says Dr. Mustafa Tai, psychiatrist and Medical Director at PsychPlus.
Release Your Anxiety at the Gym
Next time you find yourself battling anxiety, consider heading to the gym. The endorphins, social interaction and sleep benefits can work wonders for your mental health. Making exercise a part of your regular routine may become your go-to strategy for managing anxiety and enjoying a happier, more balanced life. You don’t just have to go to the gym to lose weight or “tone up,” you can use it as a sanctuary for your mind too. You can book a transformation session now not only for your body, but your mind too and find that perhaps exercise does cure anxiety.