Your parents said it, your teachers said it, your athletic friends preached it and yes, you’ve heard it over and over: Physical exercise is good for combatting your stress and anxiety.
But wait, why? Isn’t life busy enough and doesn’t our daily grind make us sweat and rush sufficiently?
Benefits of exercise – a bag of goodies 🛍️
Yes, you deserve good things, especially when life is worrisome and stressful. That’s why the connection between exercise and stress relief can become a game changer in your daily hustle.
Even if you’re out of shape now, virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever.
Exercise may help:
- Top up your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. They are your body’s natural painkillers, can create a general feeling of well-being and help to balance out the adrenaline and cortisol in nerve-wracked systems.
- Provide stress relief, because it imitates the effects of the flight or fight response. By intentionally reproducing arousal in a controlled way, your body builds up resilience to harmful effects of stress.
- Improve your mood: Accomplishing regular exercise helps you boost self-confidence. Your ability to relax and sleep may also improve over time, lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Shed daily tension: By focusing only on one task, such as your movements or breath during exercise, your worries will fade into the background. Your body and mind will learn to extend that calmness into everything you do.
Walk away from stress ☀️
Walking is gold for your well-being and it can be done almost anywhere. You can literally remove yourself from a stressful environment by using your legs. You can even calm emotional responses while walking. Simply count “one, two, one, two” and focus on your steps instead of thinking about your concerns.
Regular 10- minute increments fit smoothly into your schedule if you start to look for opportunities. Count in your stroll through a shopping mall, the visit of a friend in walking distance, or using a treadmill while watching your favorite TV show. Seize any opportunity to walk outdoors, because regular walking may help reduce anxiety and even lower the intensity of panic attacks
When will your efforts pay out? 🎁
Reductions in anxiety can occur immediately following exercise and you can increase the desired effect by varying the following factors of exercise in the way that suits you best:
- The number of days per week you exercise (frequency)
- The heart rate required and how hard you are exercising (intensity)
- The time you spend per exercise session (duration)
- The type of exercise you choose (weightlifting, meditative or aerobic training)
With most medications generally taking around 30 minutes to dissolve and start working and typical antidepressants taking 2 to 6 weeks to start relieving anxiety symptoms. By this time you’ll already be a regular exerciser. Therefore, you should definitely give exercising a try.
Exercising more or harder may not necessarily be better. A study found an exercise frequency of 3-4 times per week and a session duration of 21-30 minutes to potentially work best for the reduction of anxiety.
Only got 5 minutes? 😅
For the ones who can’t carve out more than 5 minutes a day due to various reasons, there’s good news: Even just an energetic walk around the block for 5 minutes can begin to reduce the negative effects linked to anxiety, such as sleep deprivation and restlessness. Imagine promoting deeper and more consistent sleep patterns with just one short walk outdoors. Sounds like a great bargain, right?
Alone, together or both?
The form of exercise that makes you personally feel less anxious is the best for you:
- If a social environment motivates you, join a fitness class, work out with a trainer or a group of peers. 🤾🏽♀️⛹🏽♂️
- If you feel more at ease exercising by yourself, work out at home. In places with few people, use headphones or walk with your pet. 🦮
- Make sure to get positive, encouraging feedback during exercise. Either from your environment or from yourself – feedback is crucial for success.
- Listen to your favorite music, podcast or guided session during exercise to get into the right mood easier. 🎧 🎶
Now that you know what’s in for you with every session of exercise, let’s dig into two of the most common stumbling stones most of us experience when trying to start a routine.
What makes starting an exercise routine so tricky?
In physics, the tendency of our body at rest (or in movement) to remain at rest (or in movement) is called inertia. That’s why it can be hard to establish an exercise routine.
Another reason is a law of nature that proclaims that every space in nature needs to be filled with something. We see that principle played out when we intentionally try to leave a slot in our schedules to do some exercise: It often gets swallowed up by something else, such as work, house chores, calls etc. It’s like trying to dig a hole in the sand on the beach that immediately fills with water. Sounds familiar? Well, you’re not alone in this, and the good news is that we can outsmart both challenges by:
Starting small and starting right now 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽
- Go outside and walk around the block. No need to change clothes or shoes, simply open the door and walk off.
- When you come back, the first thing is to write it down on your monthly calendar or check it off on the Earkick app, where you can see it displayed clearly with a check mark ✅
- No matter how small the first step, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and be encouraged to keep your “streak” going. Look at your checked-off action and give yourself a pad on the shoulder.
- The next day, do the same thing and give yourself another pad on the shoulder.
- If you get bored by the same routine after a few days, increase the duration of your walk, change the route or walk faster. Don’t change both, just one thing at the time. Either faster or farther.
- Keep increasing your exercise until you are doing at least 10 minutes per day. If it takes a whole month or more, that’s fine. Just imagine how great it will feel to see your journal fill up with checked off actions. You’ll feel like a rock star, because in fact you are! 🚀
- After 14 consecutive days you can consider yourself a “regular exerciser” and you will feel better than a “non-exerciser”. Celebrate it, reward yourself, share your victory!
- Time to choose whether you want to continue the 10 minute routine or top it up. Fancy joining a gym, taking up a dancing class or giving martial arts a try? Whatever you pick, make sure to keep it fun.
- If after a month you have to interrupt your routine due to sickness, injury or other inconveniences, you will get back into exercising easily. The reason is that inertia works both ways: the tendency of your body in motion is to remain in motion!
- Need more reasons to get going? Reach out to us.
At Earkick we are building a free anxiety tracker to follow our great mission in order to make the wold a less anxious place.