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Does Running Help Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. Today, we are exploring how running may boost chemicals in the brain that help reduce anxiety.

Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the United States. 

Exercises that are known to reduce stress and anxiety include walking, aerobics, yoga, and running. There is a direct, positive connection between running and anxiety. Millions of runners each year attest to the advantages of running, both physically and mentally.

Today, we are taking a closer look at what anxiety is, how it impacts your mental health, and how running can actually reduce the effects of anxiety.

Anxiety

Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States. It is an emotion associated with negative feelings such as worry and fear. It is also known to create stress and tension in physical parts of the body.

Stress and anxiety are connected to the release of cortisol hormones in the body, which can lead to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

In addition to affecting adults, the disorder affects children and teens as well. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health ailments in America for teens. In fact, reports state 10 percent of teens in the United States have had anxiety related episodes within the year.

Anxiety can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Traits can be inherited from ancestors who carried the same genetics related to anxiety. Having the same genes, however, does not mean you will automatically have an anxiety disorder.

This is where lifestyle choices make a difference. Taking care of yourself physically, with good diet and exercises such as running, can lessen your chances of triggering any anxious genes you may be carrying.

If you do not care for yourself physically, anxiety can have specific effects on your mental health as well.

Anxiety’s Effects on Mental Health

Anxiety presents itself differently for every person. You may experience thoughts of impending doom, unwanted thoughts and dread. Another person may experience racing thoughts, inability to concentrate and nausea.

There is a wide range of symptoms related to anxiety. These symptoms can lead to larger mental health issues such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Even small fears can turn into debilitating phobias if left untreated. Common phobias include flying, heights, insects and for some, leaving the comfort of their home can be difficult.

Research is finding that many who suffer from anxiety, also suffer from co-occurring disorders. Meaning, they have other mental health issues that accompany their anxiety. Common co-occurring disorders include major depressive disorder, eating disorders, social anxiety, and even addiction.

The good news is that all anxiety related issues can be treated successfully, allowing you to regain control and get back to living a healthy lifestyle.

One positive way to alleviate anxiety is by exercising, specifically running.

Does Running Help Anxiety?

In the U.S. alone, more than 64 million people went jogging or running in 2016

The act of running can have different meanings. Some train to run marathons while others casually jog around their block. Some run sprints, while others run obstacles.

While the definition of running can vary, the positive effects it has on the body is universal. Running improves lung health and helps you breathe properly, getting the right amount of oxygen to your entire body.

Running strengthens your muscles, lowers blood pressure and strengthens bones and joints. Running can also improve your confidence and boost overall mental health.

Running can reduce anxiety and stress.

Running and Anxiety

Running has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by balancing the brain chemicals that produce happiness. These chemicals, endorphins, and serotonin, are increased during exercise; some call this a runner’s high.

Some report that running for just a brief period can reduce anxiety for several hours. Over time, the benefits of running will be noticed throughout your body, adding to the length of time you feel relief.

Running also helps you sleep better. Lack of good sleep is directly linked to anxiety, as well as cognitive dysfunctions. Running improves your ability to have a clear mind so you can focus and concentrate better. Running can also let your creative side shine, with boosted self-esteem which leads to less anxiety.

Exercise, especially running, has been associated with becoming a more resilient person emotionally. This means when you encounter obstacles, as everyone does, you are better able to cope and move forward. You may not get stuck in negative emotions that hold you back.

Now that you know the benefits of running in dealing with anxiety, it is time to start moving. It is not a great idea, however, to just throw on your shoes and take off running. There are specific steps to getting started.

Conclusion

Just as you need to seek a running coach, it is important to seek help with your anxiety. Yes, running will alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms, but it may not help you get to the core of your anxiety. A mental health counselor can help you do this.

A mental health professional is trained to help you figure out why you have anxiety. Once you discover the reason why, the therapist can help you find even more actions to help you eliminate anxiety, in addition to running and other physical activities.

To experience the most success in running to reduce anxiety, seek the help of both a coach and a counselor. Together, you will reach your goal of being both physically and mentally healthy.


Chris Massman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA. She graduated Phillips Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and received her Chemical Dependency Specialty in 2014. Today, she practices Congnitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals, couples, and families identify and overcome a variety of unique challenges.