Exercise & Anxiety
vasisthasanaIt is well documented in scientific research that regular exercise enhances mood, and “remodels” the brain, making it more resistant to stress. Exercise is an important part of a plan to treat anxiety. The minimum amount of exercise needed to affect the brain and combat anxiety/depression is 20 minutes, 3 times per week. The intensity does not matter as much as the duration; a sustained effort of 20 minutes 3 times a week is sufficient. Regularity is also important; if you skip a week and plan to make it up by exercising 6 times the next week, you will not get the same results. Also, the more severe your symptoms, the more dedicated and regular your exercise routine should be. For severe cases 5 times a week would yield better results than the minimum of 3. Choose an activity that interests you or that you enjoy. You are much more likely to stick with something that you enjoy. Studies show that the profound effects of exercise, when used as part of a plan to treat anxiety, take 3-6 weeks to be noticed significantly in the mind/body. It doesn’t happen overnight – stick with a program.
Try to establish a “flow.” Start slow, and gentle. Gradually build up endurance and strength, and eventually the flow will come naturally. To enter a state of flow you should be challenged, but not overwrought. As we say in Yoga, “find the balance between effort and ease.” If it is too easy, make it harder; if it is too hard, make it easier. As your strength and endurance increase, so will your distance and/or amount of time spent in the activity. Don’t push too hard too fast.
Try exercises that maintain an elevated heart rate, but are not overly strenuous (e.g. swimming, walking

[aim for 15 minute mile], bicycling, or jog/walk).
People that exercise in groups stick with regimens or programs more regularly and for longer periods of time. Enlist a friend or family member, or join a walking club.
Monitor the regularity of your exercise routine by using the Tracking Chart provided.
Experiment with variety; walk one day, take a hike through a canyon the next, and swim some laps on yet another day. Variety adds interest and chases away boredom.

Please support the Overcome Anxiety Project, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in their efforts to create an online program based on the very successful “Overcoming Anxiety: A Natural & Holistic Approach” – help bring these self-healing techniques out to all who are seeking for help with chronic anxiety.

Resources: Exercise and Anxiety Research
McDonald, D.G., and J.A. Hogdon. The Psychological Effects of Aerobic Fitness Training: Research and Theory. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1991.
Long, B.C., and R. van Stavel. “Effects of Exercise Training on Anxiety. A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 7 (1995): 167-189.
DiLorenzo, T.M., E.P. Bargman, et al., “Long-Term Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Psychological Outcomes,” Preventive Medicine 28, no. 1(1999): 75-85.
Sher, L., “Exercise, Well-Being, and Endogenous Molecules of Mood,” The Lancet 348, no. 9025 (1996): 477.