Exercise and Anxiety (guest blog)

Back March 16th, 2018

Exercising when you have anxiety can be quite a challenge but it’s a great way to relieve stress and keep your mind as well as your body healthy. Jane has collated her best tips for Anxiety UK on how to keep your body active and healthy and in turn manage your anxiety.

Understand What Exercise Does To Your Body

When you exercise, you boost your blood circulation, heart rate, and breathing rate. These are normal symptoms that are actually good for you. For instance, an increased heart rate during exercise is good because when your heart beats faster, it’s sending more blood to the muscles that require it during exercise. Sweating, another anxiety symptom, is your body’s release of toxins during exercise. When you understand that these symptoms are happening for good reasons that can benefit your health, you can prevent yourself from giving them negative connotations associated with a panic attack.

Find A Distraction

If you concentrate on how anxious you feel, you’ll increase the horrible sensation. Often, anxiety attacks last longer than they should because we’re too focused on them. Exercise can therefore be a good distraction to the feeling of anxiety.

It also helps to do exercise outside, where there are things to see to further create distraction, such as beautiful flowers or trees. Listening to music can be a good distraction as popping in earphones will prevent you from hearing your beating heart.

Finally, make use of exercise equipment during your workout. This gives your mind something useful to focus on instead of the anxiety you feel, which will reduce your negative feelings. For instance, power towers help you create customised workouts that build your strength, while helping you concentrate on the exercise you’re doing.

Pace Yourself  

If you were resting on your bed and then decided to do some running, the sudden change in activity will cause your heart rate to change dramatically really quickly – this can make you feel anxious. Thus, it’s better to start slowly and warm up before exercising so that you get used to the sensations. It’s also good to concentrate on exercises that don’t raise your heart rate too much, as these will give you a healthy workout without the stress or fear of having a panic attack. For instance, walking is a gentle exercise, especially if you’re not fit. As you get used to it, you can increase your speed.

Stick With The Exercise For A While

It can be tempting to stop your exercise routine when you start to notice your faster heartbeat and fear you’re having a panic attack. But research into anxiety and exercise has found that people in exercise groups showed a significant decrease in their anxiety. Regular exercise can help to decrease anxiety within a few days or weeks, while a short bout of exercise can put you in a more positive mood instantly thanks to the endorphins. This is great for tackling negative thoughts that commonly present with an anxiety attack.

A good tip is to continue exercising even when you feel anxious as the anxiety will usually pass. During this time, it can be helpful to remind yourself that your body’s doing what is normal during exercise, and it cannot harm you.

Feeling anxious during exercise can be a terrifying experience, but it doesn’t mean you should avoid exercise forever. Exercise can be beneficial to decreasing your anxiety levels, while helping to distract you during a panic attack.


Jane is a freelance writer and content editor, working across a wide variety of fields. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and well being in their everyday life. And when she isn’t writing, Jane can often be found with her nose in a good book, at the gym or just spending quality time with her family.


The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to write a blog for AUK please email blog@anxietyuk.org.uk  for more information

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