As if there weren’t already enough people telling you exercise is good for you, we’re here to say exercise can also help with anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent and debilitating mental health conditions in the world. The prevalence is having been found to be as high as 30% in youth from 13-19 in western countries .
Exercise as Treatment
Several studies have looked at the effects of physical exercise on mental health – including anxiety. Research spanning 47 countries suggests that not meeting guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity increases the odds of having an anxiety disorder by 32% . That equates to about 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
Exercise can Help More than Just Anxiety in People With Anxiety
There’s also strong evidence that those with anxiety also has a higher prevalence of other mental health conditions, plus cardiovascular disease. Exercise has been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in this population (and those without anxiety).
No pharmaceutical intervention can help anxiety plus heart disease risk at the same time !
How Exercise Works
Exercise does so many things in the body – it’s hard to know exactly how it works to reduce anxiety. Exercise induces positive effects on the Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is implicated in the anxiety and stress related disorders.
Exercise in short bouts can promote a cortisol (stress response) but through long term adaptation, exercise will have dampening effects on the stress response. Research showed acute bouts of aerobic exercise before a stressful task significantly reduce blood pressure in ten different trials (RCTs) .
Another mechanism is the effect exercise has on the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region in the brain that’s directly involved in anxiety and the HPA axis. Exercise seems to stimulate this region of the brain and aid in neurotrophic pathways and help with neurogenesis (growth of new neurons).
How To Exercise
At the end of the day, aim for moderate to high intensity exercise, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do more if you can but aim for that minimum amount. Don’t stress over doing weights or cardio. Find an exercise you can tolerate but work at a work rate that you CANNOT do for hours on end. Make yourself work, but not be dead tired.
Our Team Can Help
Anxiety is multifaceted. Whether it means you need counselling to help process certain things, a naturopath to help with targeted diet, vitamin and mineral support or a physio/chiro/massage to help with physical tension which can arise – we have the team for you!
Interested in learning more?
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About the Author - Dr. Johann de Chickera
Dr. Johann is a fully licensed Naturopathic Doctor. His approach emphasizes the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and improving one’s health naturally. Dr. Johann obtained a Doctor of Naturopathy at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). Education at CCNM is a vigorous four years, with a curriculum involving biomedical sciences, physical diagnosis, clinical nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, botanical (herbal) medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy and lifestyle management.
While Dr. Johann has a general practice, he focuses on fertility, hormonal imbalances, gut health, and autoimmune disease.
To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.