Most people are aware that exercise minimizes the risk of developing physical diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a whole host of other maladies. What many people do not realize is that exercise is extremely beneficial in minimizing the effects of some psychological ailments as well.
While the media seems to focus on the staggering rate of people suffering from depression, anxiety disorders are even more common. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in America. More than 23 million Americans experience anxiety each year. Women suffer from anxiety nearly twice as much as men.
"Clinical" anxiety is not the normal uneasiness some people feel in stressful situations. Everybody feels anxious on occasion. The diagnosis of "clinical" anxiety becomes more likely when it is severe, interferes with everyday life and happens in the absence of a stressful event. The physical manifestations of anxiety include rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, and shortness of breath and/or dizziness. Psychologically, a person might feel irritable, angry, suffer from insomnia and feel like they are not in control of their own actions.
A proper diagnosis is the first step in addressing anxiety. Once identified as such, doctors often prescribe anti-anxiety medications in conjunction with behavior therapy. What is often, and mistakenly, overlooked are the benefits that exercise delivers to anxiety sufferers.
While implementing an exercise regimen may seem overwhelming to those already overwhelmed with anxiety, the benefits are well worth it. Start slowly by incorporating exercise at home (i.e., walking up and down the stairs, renting some exercise DVD's, etc.). Once that becomes manageable, try incorporating more vigorous outdoor activities like biking, running, hiking or skiing. Studies have shown that more vigorous exercise provides more benefits to those suffering from anxiety than less intense workouts. The next step could be investing in a gym membership.
Exercise, as a supplement to behavior therapy and anti-anxiety medication, will deliver a myriad of unexpected physical and psychological benefits to the anxiety sufferer.