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Friday, June 12, 2015

Naturally Reduce Anxiety with these Strategies

Help for anxiety
“I’ve tried everything, from hypnosis to Xanax to psychotherapy,” my client confessed. “They all helped a little bit, but your work became the big needle mover.”

I felt humbled. My client had struggled with chronic anxiety for years, triggered by overbearing parents, a type-A personality, and then a psychologically abusive relationship that recently ended. 

Without oversimplifying the issue, 45 minutes three times a week of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) became her ticket to – well, not eliminate anxiety, but at lest reduce its detrimental impact.

"Exercise has favorable effects on anxiety," says Dr. Jade Teta. He points to studies that show "exercise as both a preventative and alternative treatment strategy for anxiety. The acute effects of exercise might even be able to allay panic attacks."

Let's be clear: No responsible expert would position exercise as a cure-all for anxiety, which often becomes a multi-factorial issue that requires
various strategies and occasionally medical intervention to remedy.

That said, consistently working out or otherwise moving might nudge the anti-anxiety needle in your favor, and it might become the missing link to downsize anxiety.

Exercise can help you manage anxiety in more ways than you might realize.  In a New York Times blog, esteemed fitness writer Gretchen Reynolds discusses a fascinating study that compared active and sedentary mice.

Researchers here, she notes, found the active mice “had a notable number of new neurons specifically designed to release the neurotransmitter GABA, which inhibits brain activity, keeping other neurons from firing easily. In effect, these are nanny neurons, designed to shush and quiet activity in the brain.”

Not only did active mice have less-anxious brains; when researchers subsequently subjected both groups to a stressful situation, the active mice could keep “unnecessary anxiety at bay.”

Among other ways exercise can reduce anxiety include:

1.   Freeing your mind. Think about when anxiety strikes: You’re sitting on the couch, half- heartedly watching Friends reruns with a pint of butter pecan, when you suddenly have traumatizing thoughts. Exercise engages your body and mind so anxiety takes a back burner.

2.  Releasing calming neurotransmitters. Those feel-good endorphins your body release  during exercise can improve your mood and leave you less anxious.

3.  Controlling stress levels. "Stress and anxiety are not entirely different conditions,"  says the Calm Clinic. "In many ways, anxiety may be considered long term stress, and  long term stress may be a component of an anxiety disorder." Studies show physical  exercise reduces stress, anxiety, and depression

4.  Increasing resilience. Not only does exercise help you crank down anxiety and stress;  it also helps you better cope with life’s inevitable storms to face adversity rather than  succumb to anxiety.

5.  Improving sleep. Studies show a clear connection between lack of sleep and increased anxiety.  Exercise improves sleep quality, which therefore improves or helps you better deal with anxiety. 

6.  Promoting body warmth. This creates a calming effect that reduces anxiety.

7.  Boosting your confidence. A strong body creates a strong mind, and vice versa. When  you feel powerful and in control, you’re less likely to succumb to anxiety and other  negative emotions.

So you’re convinced exercise might be your needle mover to gradually dial down anxiety. If you’re a beginner, even 30 minutes of vigorous walking – at a brisk pace but not so fast you create more anxiety! – makes an excellent foundation.

Yoga can become a great anxiety reducer. Compared with walkers, one study found those who did yoga reported greater improvement in mood and greater decreases in anxiety

During my decades as a personal trainer, I’ve found more intense exercise – the aforementioned HIIT and weight lifting – create a more lasting, profound reduction in anxiety.

One study found HIIT reduced anxiety and improved oxygen uptake, vascular function, and psychological distress among in heart transplant recipients. 

Studies also show weight resistance at a low-to-moderate intensity creates steady, robust decreases in anxiety.  If you’re a newbie, you might want to hire a trainer that helps your form and designs a custom-tailored anti-anxiety plan.

Begin where you are, challenge yourself constantly, visit your doctor before undergoing a rigorous workout plan, and make exercise fun. Ultimately, the point becomes to move, period. One systematic review found both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise could reduce anxiety symptoms, although researchers concluded group therapy or even anti-depressants might also become necessary for more extreme anxiety.  

That last point becomes crucial because like everything, exercise and other anti-anxiety tactics are not one-size-fits-all. Trial and error will help you discover what works for you.

Besides sufficient exercise and sleep, you'll want to incorporate other effective strategies into your anti-anxiety arsenal to maximize those benefits.

Studies show meditation and deep breathing can help reduce anxiety. So can a few well-chosen supplements like Relora, L-theanine (in green tea), magnesium, and B vitamins.

Ditching sugar, gluten, and other dietary-anxiety triggers can do wonders, and I highly recommend Trudy Scott's excellent book The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution to create an effective anti-anxiety diet.

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, did you find a particular type of exercise helped you reduce its impact? What other strategies did you find helped? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.

You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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1 comment:

  1. Great article and so relevant! love the GABA research!

    Thanks for the mention of my book! and keep up the good work Jini!