Exercise as a coping skill for anxiety

December 26, 2023

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Coping with anxiety is a common challenge that many of us face in our daily lives. Fortunately, various approaches and strategies can help manage and alleviate anxiety symptoms. 

One powerful method for coping with anxiety is through exercise. This article will explore the connection between exercise and anxiety management, focusing on somatic therapy:

  • Understanding the role of exercise in anxiety management
  • Choosing the proper exercise routine tailored to your preferences and needs
  • Exploring the principles and benefits of somatic therapy in anxiety management
  • Creating a balanced exercise plan that incorporates cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises
  • Additional strategies to enhance anxiety management through exercise, such as outdoor activities, group exercise, and combining training with other anxiety management techniques

Let’s delve into practical ways to cope with anxiety and promote your overall mental and physical well-being.

  1. The Role of Exercise in Managing Anxiety 

Exercise plays a crucial role in managing anxiety by addressing the condition's physical and mental aspects. Regular physical activity reduces anxiety symptoms and improves overall mental well-being. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, natural mood enhancers that help alleviate stress and anxiety. Furthermore, exercise promotes relaxation and stress reduction by providing an outlet for pent-up energy and tension. 

Focusing on the physical sensations and movements involved in the exercise can shift your attention away from anxious thoughts, giving you a sense of relief and improved mood.

  1. Choosing the Right Exercise Routine for Anxiety Management 

Selecting an exercise routine that suits individual preferences and needs is crucial for effectively managing anxiety. Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, cycling, or swimming, increase heart rate and release endorphins, contributing to overall well-being. Mind-body activities like yoga or tai chi combine physical movement with deep breathing and mindfulness, promoting a calm and centred state of mind. On the other hand, strength training exercises improve physical strength, boost self-confidence, and empower individuals to manage their anxiety. Incorporating variety and flexibility into the exercise routine is essential to prevent monotony and maintain motivation.

It is crucial to shift the focus away from physical achievements or calorie burning and instead use exercise to relax, unwind, and process negative energy, ultimately promoting a healthier mindset.

  1. Somatic Therapy: A Holistic Approach to Anxiety Management 

Somatic therapy offers a holistic approach to anxiety management by recognising the intricate connection between the mind and body. This therapy emphasises the role of physical sensations and movement in processing and releasing anxiety. Individuals can cultivate present-moment awareness and reduce anxiety symptoms by increasing body awareness and using techniques such as breathwork and grounding exercises. Practising mindfulness during physical activities allows you to focus on the sensations and movements of your body, promoting a deeper connection between the mind and body. Somatic therapy provides tools to explore and release tension, facilitating a greater sense of calm and well-being.

Through somatic therapy, individuals can address and release trauma and stress stored in the body, allowing for a holistic healing process that goes beyond traditional talk therapy and promotes the integration of mind and body for long-lasting anxiety relief.

  1. Creating a Balanced Exercise Plan for Anxiety 

Developing a balanced exercise plan is essential for effectively managing anxiety. Setting realistic goals and gradually increasing exercise intensity is vital to avoid overwhelming yourself.Incorporating regular exercise into daily routines ensures consistent benefits for anxiety management. Balancing different types of exercises, such as cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises, allows you to reap the holistic benefits of physical activity. 

Listening to your body's signals is crucial, as it helps you understand when to rest or modify your exercise routine. Seeking guidance from your personal trainer can provide valuable insights and ensure the exercise plan is personalised to your individual needs and capabilities.

  1. Additional Strategies to Enhance Anxiety Management Through Exercise 

While exercise alone can be beneficial for managing anxiety, combining it with additional strategies can enhance its effectiveness. 

  • Engaging in outdoor activities provides the added benefits of exposure to nature, calming the mind and reducing anxiety.

  • Joining group exercise classes or finding exercise partners not only fosters social support but also adds an element of enjoyment and accountability to the routine.

  • Setting aside dedicated time for exercise demonstrates a commitment to self-care and prioritising mental well-being.

  • Combining exercise with other anxiety management techniques, such as meditation or cognitive-behavioural therapy, can create a synergistic effect, addressing anxiety from multiple angles.

  • Monitoring progress and celebrating achievements helps people stay motivated, reinforcing positive habits and boosting mental well-being.

How A Personal Trainer Can Guide You In Using Exercise For Coping With Anxiety

A personal trainer can provide a comprehensive approach to anxiety management by integrating physical exercise with therapeutic techniques that address the mind-body connection. 

A personal trainer can guide you in implementing somatic therapy principles during exercise sessions. They can introduce:

  • body awareness exercises, 
  • breathing techniques, and 
  • grounding practices 

To help you connect with your physical sensations, release tension, and cultivate mindfulness. By incorporating somatic therapy into exercise sessions, a personal trainer can create a safe and supportive environment that allows you to explore and process anxiety while promoting relaxation and stress reduction. Your personal trainer can also guide exercise selection and progression, ensuring the chosen exercises align with your goals and preferences. 

Exercise, along with the principles of somatic therapy, offers a practical approach to coping with anxiety. By incorporating regular physical activity, you can:

  • harness its benefits to manage anxiety symptoms,
  • promote relaxation, and 
  • cultivate a healthier mind-body connection to ease anxiety. 


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