5 Exercises To Help Lower Anxiety

Alice Duthie

Lifestyle Writer

Jun 06, 2024

Regular exercise is a potent antidote to anxiety and one of the simplest things you can do to assist your stress levels and improve your mental state.

Engaging in physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural stress-relievers, which contribute to an immediate mood lift says Tahnee Donkin, National Fitness Manager at Genesis Health + Fitness and qualified PT in the fitness industry for over 15 years.

“Additionally, exercise promotes better sleep, crucial for maintaining mental and emotional balance,” said Tahnee.

“Beyond the biological benefits, the act of exercising itself serves as a powerful distraction, redirecting the mind away from anxious thoughts and providing a constructive outlet for stress while giving you a positive sense of achievement,” said Tahnee.

Any movement is great, but there are particular exercises that can have a powerful effect in reducing anxiety levels. Here are five exercises to consider:

1. Mindful walking

Mindful walking is a simple yet effective exercise that combines the benefits of cardiovascular activity with mindfulness techniques. Find a quiet, natural setting for your walk – a local park or a scenic trail – or pop your headphones in and hit the treadmill. Really focus on your breathing, taking slow and deliberate breaths as you walk. The pace doesn’t have to be intense. The rhythmic movement combined with conscious breathing can effectively reduce anxiety levels and promote a sense of calm. Rather than cranking up your favourite tunes and zoning out, try listening to something calmer that allows your mind to be calm and present. Starting with 20-30 minutes of mindful walking a few times a week to experience the full benefits.

reduce anxiety walking exercise

2. Yoga for reducing anxiety

Yoga is a fantastic exercise for promoting both physical and mental well-being. The practice of yoga involves controlled breathing, mindful movement and poses that stretch and strengthen the body. Poses like Child’s Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, and Savasana are particularly effective. These poses encourage deep breathing and relaxation, helping to calm the nervous system.

3. Cardio for stress-busting

A cardio workout is any exercise that increases your heart rate for an extended period of time, such as a brisk walk, run, swim, cycle, row or HIIT workout (high intensity interval training) in the gym. Cardio is powerful for your general and mental health, because it improves the efficiency of your heart and lungs, enabling them to pump oxygenated blood more efficiently throughout your body. Healthy blood flow helps to activate the brain’s tension-fighting hormones, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which is key for calming anxious thought patterns. Start with aerobic exercise for 10, 20 or 30 minutes daily and steadily build your sessions in length and intensity, being mindful of how your body responds.

reduce anxiety exercise fitness

4. Strength training for empowerment

Resistance training goes beyond building physical strength; it empowers women by boosting confidence. Incorporate a mix of strength training workouts into your fitness routine to keep things interesting and spark your joy, creativity and curiosity. Choose body weight exercises, such as planks, squats and lunges, and free weight exercises in the gym or at home. Or a patch of grass outdoors, using kettlebells, medicine balls or dumbbells. Using resistance bands to stretch and strengthen. Or use weight machines, free weights and suspension equipment if you’re in the gym. It’s important to progress gradually and enjoy that sense of accomplishment that comes with your progress.

5. Breathwork and meditation for clearing the mind

Incorporating breathwork and meditation into a fitness routine can be transformative for managing anxiety. Breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced during workouts, and more advanced techniques such as box breathing can be practiced as standalone exercises. Try a guided meditation session – there are plenty of these available for free online. Meditation helps quiet the mind, improves focus and cultivates a sense of inner peace. Start with just a few minutes of meditation daily and gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.

“Remember, the key is consistency and enjoying what you are doing – so find what works for you and doesn’t feel like an overwhelming chore.

“Also consider working out in a group environment; Being social can be daunting when you’re feeling anxious, but studies have shown that connecting with people helps to significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety while boosting self-esteem and confidence.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By Alice Duthie

Lifestyle Writer

Alice Duthie is a beauty and lifestyle writer for The Carousel. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Sydney, majoring in Marketing and Business Information Systems.

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