Exercise and Anxiety: The Surprising Connection

Anxiety is a common problem for many people. It can make daily life challenging and stressful. But there is good news: exercise can help. This article explores how exercise and anxiety are connected and why moving your body can be a powerful way to reduce anxiety.

What is the nature of anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear. It can happen for many reasons. Some people feel anxious before a big event, like a job interview or a test. Others feel anxious without a clear reason. Anxiety can affect your body and mind. You might feel tense, have a racing heart, or find it hard to focus.

Why Exercise Helps with Anxiety

Exercise is more than just moving your body. It can change how your brain works and how you feel. Here are some reasons why exercise can help with anxiety:

Exercise Reduces Stress Hormones

When you exercise, your body releases fewer stress hormones like cortisol. This can make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Lowering stress hormones can also help you sleep better, which can reduce anxiety.

Exercise Boosts Endorphins

Endorphins are chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy. When you exercise, your brain releases more endorphins. This is why many people feel a “runner’s high” after running or working out. Endorphins can help reduce feelings of anxiety and improve your mood.

Exercise Distracts You from Worries

When you focus on exercise, you think less about your worries. This distraction can be a great way to give your mind a break from anxious thoughts. Activities like yoga, dancing, or team sports can help you stay in the moment.

Exercise Builds Confidence

When you exercise, you can feel proud of what you achieve. Maybe you can run longer, lift more weight, or do a challenging yoga pose. These achievements can boost your confidence. When you feel more confident, you might feel less anxious in other parts of your life.

Types of Exercise to Try

You don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from exercise. Here are some types of exercise that can help with anxiety:


Walking is simple and free. You can walk in your neighborhood, at a park, or on a treadmill. Walking can be a great way to clear your mind and reduce anxiety.


Running is more intense than walking. It can be a great way to burn off stress and get your heart pumping. Many people find that running helps them feel less anxious and more energetic.


Yoga combines movement and breathing. It can help you relax and focus on the present moment. Yoga is also good for stretching and improving flexibility. Many people find that yoga helps them feel calm and centered.


Swimming is a low-impact exercise. It can be soothing to move through the water. Swimming can help you feel weightless and calm, which can reduce anxiety.

Strength Training

Strength training includes lifting weights or using resistance bands. It can help you build muscle and gain strength. Strength training can also boost your confidence, which can lower anxiety.

Tips for Getting Started

Starting a new exercise routine can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Start Small

You don’t need to exercise for hours. Start with 10-15 minutes a day. You can gradually increase the time as you get used to it.

Find Something You Enjoy

Exercise should be fun. Try different activities to see what you like. It could be dancing, cycling, hiking, or playing a sport.

Make It Social

Exercising with friends can make it more enjoyable. You can join a class, go for a walk with a friend, or play a team sport. Social exercise can also be a great way to reduce anxiety.

Set Realistic Goals

It’s important to set goals that you can achieve. This will help you stay motivated. You can set goals like walking a certain number of steps each day or running a 5K.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how you feel when you exercise. If something hurts, take a break. It’s okay to rest and recover. Exercise should help you feel better, not worse.

In summary

Exercise can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. It can reduce stress hormones, boost endorphins, distract you from worries, and build confidence. You don’t need to be a fitness expert to benefit from exercise. Start small, find activities you enjoy, and set realistic goals. With time and consistency, you might find that exercise helps you feel less anxious and more at ease.

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