Exercise to Lower Your Anxiety
Everyone is feeling a certain amount of stress about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, and that’s perfectly normal. However, for many people, that stress may turn into anxiety, particularly if they have a loved one who is sick or working on the front lines. This can also be a trying time for the nearly 40 million Americans who already suffer from an anxiety disorder.
The good news is that there are many tested techniques for coping with anxiety. A number of research studies point to exercise as one method for effectively reducing stress and anxiety. Keep reading to learn how exercise can help and for ways to exercise during COVID-19 social distancing and gym closures.
How Exercise Helps Stress and Anxiety
Studies show that exercise:
- Produces endorphins. These chemicals in the brain act as natural painkillers, lead to a sense of well-being, and improve the ability to sleep.
- Reduces fatigue. We all know that when we’re tired, it’s easier to feel down or stressed about our circumstances.
- Improves alertness and concentration. When we can focus, we’re more likely to feel prepared and able to handle any stressors that come our way.
- Boosts immunity. Exercise, along with adequate sleep, can also boost the immune system.
Exercise can work quickly to elevate a depressed mood. As little as five to ten minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. A 15- or 20-minute workout can deliver hours of anxiety relief. Many patients with anxiety disorders have seen significant improvements when they exercise on a regular basis.
Ways to Exercise During COVID-19 Restrictions
If you are new to exercise, set small goals and aim for consistency rather than the perfect workout. Start with a 15-minute walk three times a week. The aim is to work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.
Try walking, jogging, or biking in your neighborhood. This can be a great lunchtime break if you are working from home or a fun after-dinner activity for the whole family.
Some area parks and gardens still have walking or hiking trails open, including the Greensboro Arboretum and the Latham Park Greenway in Greensboro, Guilford-Mackintosh Park in Whitsett, and Gibson Park in High Point.
Set up some backyard games with your children. Try a lawn bowling game with empty two-liter soda bottles with a very small amount of sand or water in the bottom to keep them from blowing in the wind. Use a tennis ball or a soccer ball as your bowling ball. Kids can also practice math skills by keeping score.
Many fitness programs and organizations are offering free online exercise classes at this time. The YMCA is offering YMCA 360. Options include boot camp, yoga, and programs for seniors. Peloton has a 90-day free trial of yoga, meditation, strength, cycling, running, and other classes.
You can also make up your own home exercise routine with a series of jumping jacks, crunches, leg lifts, and squats. Try challenging your children to join you, or turn the exercises into a game of Simon Says. And check out these other workout apps, some of which are offering free trials during the pandemic.
Other Methods to Reduce Anxiety
There are plenty of other techniques to lower anxiety levels. David Gutterman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with LeBauer Behavioral Medicine, recently shared ways to cope with coronavirus stress and anxiety in this video.
Many people also find counseling helpful. The team at LeBauer Behavioral Medicine is offering virtual visits by video or telephone to both new and existing patients. You can contact your nearest LeBauer office or request an appointment online.