Exercise and Resistance Training Can Help Reduce Anxiety

Exercise and Resistance Training Can Help Reduce Anxiety

Strength training has been shown to reduce anxiety and make our minds feel a bit better. Those of us who exercise know the pleasant, relaxed feeling that often follows a tough workout.

Strength training has been shown to reduce anxiety in several ways:

  1. Endorphins: Strength training causes the release of endorphins, naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that act as neurotransmitters and are often referred to as "feel-good" chemicals because they can produce feelings of pleasure and well-being. Endorphins are structurally similar to opioids, such as morphine, and can bind to the same receptors in the brain. They are involved in regulating a variety of physiological processes, including pain perception, mood, appetite, and the immune system, and are thought to play a role in the body's natural stress response, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation.

  2. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): Strength training can increase levels of BDNF, a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to anxiety and depression, so increasing BDNF levels through strength training may help to reduce anxiety.

  3. Social support: Many people who engage in strength training do so in a group setting, such as a fitness class or gym. This can provide social support and a sense of community, which can reduce feelings of isolation and improve mental health.

  4. Self-esteem: Strength training can improve self-esteem and confidence, which can help to reduce anxiety. As people see improvements in their strength and fitness, they may feel more capable and in control of their lives.
A compelling resource on the mental benefits of exercise and strength training is Dr. Jennifer Heisz, Phd’s Audible book, Move the Body, Heal the Mind. As covered by the NY Times, Heisz, a scientist and triathlete, shares her personal story, practical steps and the science behind the link exercise and brain health. For a quick break that may help reduce anxiety, try a micro workout while lifting an Obshay.

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