Throughout my experience with anxiety, which is ongoing, I have been advised by countless professionals whose care I was under, to take up some form of physical activity. I dismissed this advice for several reasons:
1. I have always been lazy
2. I didn’t believe that it would really make a difference to my condition
3. I believed this advice was being dispensed as a last resort when maybe other forms of treatment didn’t seem to be giving the expected results
4. I believed I was ‘prescribed’ exercise as a way to distract me from my anxiety; to give me something else to focus on
I have suffered from anxiety since I was 17. Today, at 36 (yes, I know, I took my time!), I can vouch for the positive effect physical activity has had on my anxiety. I started attending a local gym regularly 6 months ago. I work out more or less 3 times a week for approximately one hour.
Here are the positive effects I personally experience since I have integrated physical activity into my lifestyle:
1. It has made me fight my shyness. I used to feel so self conscious about going to the gym since I always imagined people looking at me, judging me if I was doing anything wrong or simply making fun of me. Let’s face it, looking all sweaty and making certain movements do not exactly make one look their best 😬 but I stopped caring now. This has increased my confidence.
2. It gives my week more structure. I thrive on routines. Having something and somewhere to go 3 times a week, somehow, makes me feel more accomplished.
3. Now this is something I was really skeptical about, but I had to rethink it! Working out leaves me feeling full of energy. After my workout, I come home energized and get down to doing much more in my day when compared to days when I do not work out.
4. I feel more positive. Knowing that I am actively doing something for myself and no one else makes me feel happy and proud that I am managing to do something which was so far removed from my routine.
5. It helps me eat healthier food. I started exercising solely to mitigate the effects of my anxiety. Once this was part of my lifestyle, I wanted to get more out of it. Together with the trainer at the gym, I now follow a ‘diet’ to compliment my exercise regimen. Eating better automatically makes me feel better. This diet is no way a strict one and I do stray from it whenever I want, but in general, I do feel better and tend to choose healthier options.
6. My mood has improved too. Feeling good or better about oneself will automatically infect all areas in your life, even aspects of your life you never even thought could possibly be affected.
In brief, if you are battling anxiety, do yourself a favor and get moving! If you cannot afford a gym membership, go for some brisk walks in an area where you feel safe and ideally where the air is not so polluted. If you need motivation, try and find an exercise buddy so that you can support one another and share as well as enjoy the benefits together. You can also adjust your diet by trying to consume less processed food and more fresh produce. Once you get going, you will wish you had taken this up before!
P.S. This article is not meant to make anyone take up exercise whilst abandoning other key aspects of combatting anxiety such as therapy or medication. It is rather an addition to these and any other means of therapy.