During his State of the Union address last week, American President Joe Biden warned that society is experiencing a mental health crisis like it never has before, and it’s ravaging the nation’s younger people. Biden’s remarks placed much of the blame on social media saying that it is one of the root causes of the mental health issues that global citizens are faced with today.
Whether social media is to blame, or our busy lifestyles, or stressing about the next “delta” variant of the pandemic, a closer look reveals that the most common mental illness in society today is anxiety – almost 20% of the U.S. population deals with it every day but less than half have the courage to seek out treatment. Anxiety is a highly treatable condition, but that’s not to say that treatment is as simple as taking a pill. Medications can help stave off the effects of anxiety, but they also have undesirable side effects.
There’s no “canary in the coal mine” to rely upon with anxiety, and it tends to sneak up on us when we’re not expecting it. When it does, exercise and physical activity may not immediately strike us as the most appealing activity, but there’s no denying that physical activity plays a huge role in successfully combating the effects of anxiety. Physically fitness has long been promoted as the best defense in the fight against a whole swath of health conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, and arthritis, but now, as society is stepping up efforts to build a greater awareness of mental health issues, exercise is getting the recognition it deserves for its psychological benefits, including its ability to reduce, and even eliminate, anxiety.
How Does Exercise Fight Anxiety?
Exercise is a broadly defined term for many of us. Its activities can range from breathing exercises to power lifting, and can be done in a group setting, individually, or under the careful watch of a personal fitness trainer (PT). In the final analysis, just about any kind of physical activity contributes positively to our mental state. Exercise enhances our ability to focus, relieves insomnia, and can help us achieve that much sought after “runner’s high.”
In trying to understand the connection, a closer look at our mushy 3 lbs. brains reveals that physical activity and exercising both have an impact on the areas of our brains that are responsible for managing the effects of depression and schizophrenia. There is even research to suggest that exercise enhances the chance of remission by more than 20% in those dealing with major depression by increasing the circulation of certain endorphins.
In plainer language, embarking on a physical fitness routine or even just being physically active for a short period of time serves to “distract” us from the very issues that may be causing our anxiety. When we’re being physically active, the body directs its energies towards making sure our muscles and breathing requirements are being adequately supplied and these physical exertions increase the output of anti-anxiety chemicals like serotonin.
What Exercises Reduce Anxiety?
In our harried society, any exercise or physical activity that we can squeeze into our workweeks is a bonus, but there are certain exercises that can make more meaningful contributions towards relieving anxiety than others. Running or jogging, as an example, can increase the circulation of our 'feel good' chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine not only while you’re running, but also afterward. Running has also been applauded for how it can help us fall asleep at night.
Cardio kickboxing or boxing is another popular way of dealing with stress. If you feel like slugging it out, there are PTs that offer kickboxing or boxing classes to help you burn off stress and other intense emotions, not to mention how these short fitness routines can really get your heart pumping.
For the less aggressive, a simple stretching and breathing routine can be remarkably effective in dialing down your emotions helping you to regain your mental focus and alleviate anxiety.
Personal Fitness Trainers in the Fight Against Anxiety
The role of personal fitness trainers (PT) in our lives continues to evolve, and they are serving society in new and exciting ways. PTs can play a remarkably effective role in helping clients adopt an exercise routine that can be very effective at eliminating the effects of anxiety in their lives. Fitness trainers have the expertise, and oftentimes the credentials, to know what exercises fit the lifestyles of their clients and can design tailored programs that are very successful.
Relying on YouTube.com to find your workout routine may sound easy, fast, and cheap, but the risk of having someone instruct you who knows nothing about your goals, or your medical history is a recipe for disaster. It’s also important to note that choosing the wrong exercises to fight anxiety can actually create more stress.
Those are just a few reasons why so many are successfully drawing on the expertise of trained fitness professionals to help the feel better not only physically, but mentally as well.