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March 2011



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By David McCracken, MA, LPC
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 19, 2011

The next time you’re nervously prepping for an exam or a crucial job interview, consider this: taking a break to exercise may help you stay calm and focused as you complete your big task.

Exercise is an effective short-term treatment for anxiety, said Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In fact, research suggests that — at least for temporary anxiety — exercise can be just as effective a coping tool as medication or psychotherapy, he said.

Although we often think of it negatively, anxiety is a normal emotion, Abramowitz said. It evolved in our ancestors as a response to danger, such as a nearby predator. When you perceive a threat, you begin sweating, your heart rate increases and your breathing accelerates — the “fight or flight” response.

Of course, many modern dangers – such as a bad grade or an unsatisfactory job interview – can’t be thwarted by fighting or fleeing. In those cases, you may be left with only the unpleasant effects of anxiety, such as sweaty palms and a pounding heart.

Exercise can help you manage anxiety by distracting you from your worries and giving you a feeling of accomplishment, Abramowitz said. It also causes your body to release endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals that suffuse you with feelings of well-being.

Among the tips he offers for helping to relieve anxiety:

  • *When you start a new exercise routine, set goals that are reasonable for your ability. You’re less likely to injure yourself — and thus cause yourself additional distress — if you break your sessions into small, frequent increments.

  • *How much exercise does it take to manage anxiety? That depends, Abramowitz said. If you’re already in good physical condition, try aiming for thirty minutes of exercise, three to five days a week. But generally, you’ll need to exercise just long enough to have a true break from your normal environment.


Read More … http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/19/exercise-lessens-anxiety-in-the-short-run/24506.html

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