What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental disorder that affects many of us in different ways. It is a common and natural human response to stress or uncertain situations. It manifests as a feeling of apprehension, fear, or unease, often accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, shallow breathing, or sweaty palms. Anxiety can be a normal part of life, but excessive and persistent anxiety can become overwhelming and detrimental to one’s well-being. In addition, it can interfere with daily activities, relationships, and overall quality of life. .
There are many different types of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common ones are Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety and Panic Disorder. In addition, GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder.
People manage their anxiety disorders in different ways. Management strategies for anxiety include mediation, breathing techniques, cognitive therapy, dietary adjustments and exercise. Exercise is a common anxiety treatment. Some studies suggest weightlifting reduces anxiety symptoms.
My Experience with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and my Fitness Journey
I have suffered from anxiety since the age of 16. It started off quite mild and slowly it became chronic, also known as, generalised anxiety disorder. I have tried many different techniques to help calm myself during anxious moments, including meditation and diaphragmatic breathing. They definitely have proven to be effective, but personally none of them have been as long term effective as weightlifting has.
I began weightlifting when I was at the lowest point with my mental health. It helped to pull me out of my clouded mind. It gave me motivation, goals to strive for, and a safe space for me to release my stresses. When I noticed weightlifting reduces anxiety I decided to stay consistent with it as to see progress with most things consistency is key! 3 years since I started weightlifting and it is still my go to management technique during anxious moments.
5 Ways Weightlifting Reduces Anxiety
There are countless different ways weightlifting reduces anxiety symptoms. Below I am going to discuss 5 scientifically proven ways that exercise helps to relieve those anxious symptoms:
1. Relieves pain and stress
According to studies, exercising improves mood through a complex interplay of physiological and neurochemical processes. When we engage in physical activity, such as jogging, swimming, or dancing, the body releases endorphins. These endorphins interact with receptors in the brain to reduce the perception of pain and trigger positive feelings. As a result, this leads to an enhanced sense of well-being and even a temporary reduction in anxiety and depression. Endorphins work to counteract the body’s stress response by inhibiting the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.
Anxiety and stress often go hand in hand, so exercising is great to relieve some of the stress from the body. In addition, some people feel like they need to physically get rid of the stress. This is why working out is a great way to do this. People usually notice feeling less stressed after a workout.
2. Improves your mood
Exercising positively impacts mood by influencing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine (“reward neurotransmitter”) increases with exercise, promoting feelings of pleasure and motivation. This creates a feedback loop that enhances mood. In addition, exercise boosts serotonin levels, leading to a sense of happiness and emotional stability. Together, the increased dopamine and serotonin contribute to an improved mood, reduced anxiety, and enhanced emotional well-being.
Anxious people sometimes struggle with fluctuating moods. This is why exercising can be a great way to help you balance out your mood on days where you feel it’s a bit up and down.
3. Distracts your anxious thoughts
Engaging in exercise provides a valuable distraction from anxious thoughts by redirecting your focus and energy toward physical activity. The mental engagement required during weightlifting sessions provides a break from ruminating on worries. This contributes to a temporary relief from anxiety. When you’re active, your mind becomes absorbed in the present moment, concentrating on the movements, sensations, and challenges of the exercise rather than dwelling on anxious or distressing thoughts.
According to studies, an effective anxiety coping strategy used are distraction techniques. Anxious people often feel like their minds are racing 24 hours of the day with thought after thought. Furthermore, spending a few hours at the gym can be a good way to help distract you from those thoughts and therefore relieve some of those anxious symptoms.
4. Boosts your confidence
Weightlifting can have a big impact on boosting your confidence by encouraging physical and mental growth. The process of setting goals, consistently pushing your limits, and achieving milestones provides a sense of accomplishment and self-assurance. Physically, weightlifting enhances your body’s composition. This leads to increased muscle mass and improved posture. These changes can positively influence body image and self-perception, boosting your self-esteem and confidence in your appearance.
Anxiety makes you worry. As a result, it makes you question everything, including yourself. Anxious people often struggle with a lack of confidence. In addition, according to studies, weight training is shown to help boost confidence in people as seeing your growth and progress can make you see yourself in more of a positive aspect.
5. Increases your energy levels
Exercising elevates your energy levels through a combination of factors. Physical activity enhances blood flow, ensuring vital nutrients reach your muscles and organs, while the release of endorphins generates a sense of invigoration. Improved cardiovascular fitness strengthens your heart and lungs. In addition, it reduces fatigue during daily tasks, and the stimulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine sharpens focus and mental clarity.
Anxiety can make you feel fatigued. People with GAD often suffer with chronic fatigue symptoms, sometimes finding just getting out of bed being a daily challenge.
Furthermore, exercising has been shown to help raise those energy levels, therefore someone who’s constant tired could definitely benefit from working out daily. Different types of exercise, for example, weightlifting reduces anxiety symptoms in some people.