Does Exercise Help Anxiety?

Does Exercise Help Anxiety?

What if the magic pill for managing anxiety was a workout? Does that sound amazing or just exhausting?

Either way, the proof is pouring in on the side of exercising anxiety out.

In the Beginning…

The powers that be were confused by the data on how working out affected anxiety.  

People who exercised raved about its anti-anxiety effects way more than studies proved it.

That was then.  

Today, the results of cross-sectional and long-term studies are more consistently showing that aerobic exercise has both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects, protecting the exerciser from the potentially gnarly consequences of stress.

Basically, there’s a pattern of evidence showing exercise training lays the groundwork for resilience to stress.  We can build muscles to fight anxiety. How cool is that?

What Kind of Exercising Are We Talking About Here?

The best kind for the task at hand is rhythmic, aerobic exercises that use large muscle groups,


  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Walking

The ideal sessions are 15-30 minutes each, at least three times a week, for 10 weeks or longer.

This study suggests moderate or low intensity is the sweet spot. And while it points to a commitment over time for best results, it documented drops in anxiety after single sessions.

Yes, you heard me.  You will feel better after you work out even once.

But How?

There’s something called the endorphin and monoamine hypothesis.

The idea is that low levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine can lead to depression.

The same systems are involved with anxiety. In fact, learned helplessness is related to low norepinephrine. So by boosting these hormones through exercise, you literally are working toward feeling better.

Exercise can also increase your body temperature and blood circulation in the brain, ramping up your resilience to stress.  

The mental tools at work here are thought to be improved self-efficacy (you thinking well of yourself), distraction, and cognitive dissonance (you trying to put yourself down mentally but not being able to at the moment.) 

Bottom line—that it works is stellar even if we’ve yet to pinpoint exactly how.

Another Clue.

A different study showed that people who are more active may be less likely to suffer from anxiety. Very interesting…

The same study showed that exercise training reduced symptoms in anxiety and stress-related disorders, like PTSD, agoraphobia, and panic disorder.

The Verdict:

Aerobics aren’t just good cardio anymore. They’re great anti-anxiety meds.  And their side effects rock. Who doesn’t want toned muscles and a lower heart rate?

After your next workout, pick up a bottle of MOVE Alkaline Oxygenated Spring Water. It’ll help you rehydrate faster.