Exercise as therapy | What is the best exercise for anxiety?

Exercise as therapy is all about using exercise to improve your mental health and wellbeing. If you struggle with anxiety and find it difficult to live outside of your head, you might just find that working out can provide some respite from the constant battle with your thoughts. Here’s everything you need to know and how to get started. 

Is exercise a form of therapy?

Regular exercise is usually something that healthcare providers like doctors and mental health nurses recommend as a therapeutic method to help improve your mood. The release of endorphins during a workout is what makes us feel good, boosting our self-esteem and helping us unwind. That’s why a lot of people see exercise as therapy. It’s a safe, accessible, and fun way of enhancing both their physical and mental health. 

Is exercise good for anxiety?

Exercise is great for anxiety. Just simply putting your headphones in and focusing on your workout can be an instant distraction from any stress you’ve been carrying on your shoulders. Take up as much space as you need and move your body. 

Even short bursts of exercise can leave you feeling energised, help with concentration, manage stress, and enhance your sleeping pattern. 

What is the best exercise for anxiety?

Any form of exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, but aerobic exercise is the most beneficial as it really gets your heart rate going. This might sound a little counterintuitive as anxiety is often associated with an increased heart rate. 

But as your fitness level improves over time, your heart begins to work more efficiently, meaning your resting heart rate between workout sessions becomes slower. Here are some aerobic exercises that can help with anxiety:

  • Running
  • Cycling 
  • Swimming
  • Walking 
  • Dancing
  • Tennis

Other anxiety-reducing exercises

Yoga has also proved to be incredibly helpful for those struggling with anxiety. The combination of movement, meditation, and deep breathing can calm your busy mind and release any tension you’re holding.

Making exercise social can reduce anxiety too. Working out with a friend or attending a fun gym class like Zumba is not only really empowering, but a chance to be around other people if you’re feeling lonely and lost in your thoughts. 

Do therapists recommend exercise?

It’s well known that certain lifestyle changes such as exercise and eating a balanced diet can have a significant impact on our wellbeing. Exercise is often recommended to clients by their therapists as research shows that moving your body is effective in improving depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health difficulties. 

They’ll likely suggest that you take things slow and find something you enjoy. If you need some inspiration, why not try out Dog Yoga or Bungee Fitness?

Exercise and mental health

Now that you have some more guidance on using exercise as therapy, it’s time to put it into practice. Download one of your favourite playlists, put your workout kit on, and step outside. We totally understand that starting exercise when you’re in a bad place mentally can be really difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t quite manage it yet. Take it one day at a time, drink your water, and get plenty of rest when your body needs it.

If you need to talk to someone about your anxiety, please visit Mind or Anxiety UK.