Exercise and Panic Attacks: How Physical Activity Affects Anxiety
The interaction between exercise and panic attacks is complex. Research has shown that physical activity can reduce anxiety and risk of panic attacks. At the same time, exercise itself may trigger panic attacks in some people.
Benefits of Exercise for Anxiety
Physical exercise can have numerous mental health benefits, including reducing anxiety symptoms and improving mood:
- Reduces stress hormones: Exercise reduces your body’s production of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Improves mood: Exercise releases natural chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which can create a feeling of well-being and happiness.
- Improves self-confidence: Participating in physical activity can also boost self-confidence and lead to a better overall feeling and decreased levels of anxiety.
- Increases energy levels: Exercise can give you more energy throughout the day and can make you feel more alert and less fatigued.
Is Exercise a Trigger?
Exercise can also be a trigger for panic attacks in some individuals. Exercise-induced panic attacks (EIPA) can occur after strenuous or prolonged physical activity. Symptoms of EIPA can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart
- Extreme fatigue
- Sense of impending doom
Although it can be intimidating, if you do experience EIPA, you should continue to exercise as long as the symptoms remain manageable. Seek professional help if necessary, and gradually build up your activity levels and intensity to help identify any triggers and learn to manage them effectively.
Exercise Strategies for Anxiety
There are a few strategies to make physical activity an effective anxiety management tool:
- Start with short, low-intensity exercise sessions
- Choose enjoyable activities
- Work out in a safe, comfortable environment
- Vary your routine and focus on your breathing
- Set realistic goals and modify expectations
- Don’t forget to cool down and stretch
Physical activity can be a great way to reduce anxiety and improve overall health. Before starting any exercise program, however, it’s important to talk to your doctor to ensure it is safe and appropriate for you.