FIT­NESS SOLUTIONS Sim­ple out­door ex­er­cise can help you man­age feel­ings of anx­i­ety

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ERNIE SCHRAMAYR Ernie Schramayr, CPT, is a Med­i­cal Ex­er­cise Spe­cial­ist in Hamil­ton who helps his clients man­age med­i­cal con­di­tions with ex­er­cise. You can fol­low him at ErniesFit­nessWorld.com. erniesfit­nessworld@gmail.com or 905-741-7532

Anx­i­ety is a gen­eral term for sev­eral dis­or­ders that cause ner­vous­ness, fear, ap­pre­hen­sion, and worry. For many peo­ple, it can be over­whelm­ing. It can also be un­pre­dictable, and when it flares up can bring with it an ar­ray of phys­i­cal and emo­tional prob­lems in­clud­ing in­abil­ity to fo­cus, sleep dis­tur­bances, racing heart rate, headache, di­ges­tive prob­lems and feel­ings of un­ease. Anx­i­ety dis­or­ders should be treated by a qual­i­fied health pro­fes­sional and should be taken se­ri­ously. Luck­ily, treat­ments do ex­ist that can help peo­ple man­age their lives around anx­i­ety. One im­por­tant way peo­ple can start to man­age the way they feel is to par­tic­i­pate in an ex­er­cise pro­gram.

Ex­er­cise by it­self can­not cure anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion. It can, how­ever, bring many phys­i­cal, emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits to those who do get in­volved in a con­sis­tent, reg­u­lar fit­ness pro­gram. Know­ing this, the real chal­lenge is for some­one who feels they are “barely hold­ing on” to find the mo­ti­va­tion and where­withal to ac­tu­ally start ex­er­cis­ing and then keep go­ing. The good news is that a pro­gram does not have to be overly time con­sum­ing, phys­i­cally tax­ing or com­pli­cated to make a dif­fer­ence in some­one’s life.

From my ex­pe­ri­ence, the best way to get some­one to stick to a reg­u­lar fit­ness reg­i­men, when they aren’t in the habit, is to have them first fo­cus on the fre­quency with which they ex­er­cise.

A work­out plan is built around four sep­a­rate prin­ci­ples that make up what is called the FITT for­mula: Fre­quency (how many times per week you are ex­er­cis­ing), in­ten­sity (how hard you are work­ing out), type (the choice of what ex­er­cise to do) and time (per work­out ses­sion).

In the case of anx­i­ety and ex­er­cise, the fre­quency is more im­por­tant than how hard and how long some­one does a cer­tain ac­tiv­ity. I would rec­om­mend start­ing with three times per week and build­ing up to five. Re­search has shown that even small bouts of ex­er­cise of 10 min­utes, spread over the week, pro­duces pos­i­tive out­comes. As the habit takes hold, the ex­er­ciser can in­crease their du­ra­tion to 20 or 30 min­utes per ses­sion and get even more ben­e­fit.

While fre­quency is crit­i­cal, the sec­ond prin­ci­ple to be con­cerned with is the type of ex­er­cise. Most fit­ness ac­tiv­i­ties can help to di­min­ish anx­i­ety-re­lated symp­toms, but the most sig­nif­i­cant is aer­o­bic ex­er­cise that el­e­vates your heart rate for a pe­riod of time. The most com­mon symp­tom of an anx­i­ety or panic at­tack is a racing heart. When some­one per­forms aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, their heart rate speeds up and their heart and lungs be­come stronger and more ef­fi­cient over time re­sult­ing in a lower rest­ing heart rate be­tween ex­er­cise ses­sions. The feel­ings that come along with the ben­e­fits of an im­proved car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem in­clude an over­all feel­ing of well-be­ing and im­proved self-es­teem. This alone can help to off­set anx­ious feel­ings.

Many of my clients have told me that when they do an aer­o­bic work­out like hik­ing, bik­ing, swim­ming or jog­ging, they al­most feel like they are med­i­tat­ing. Prob­lems seem to work them­selves out as they go about their ac­tiv­ity and they feel re­freshed and have more men­tal clar­ity when they are done.

No mat­ter which ac­tiv­ity they do, it seems that the rhyth­mic na­ture of the work­out, along with faster breath­ing and el­e­vated heart rate re­laxes them, leav­ing them feel­ing pos­i­tive, able to con­cen­trate bet­ter and proud of what they’ve ac­com­plished. Many times, I have mea­sured a client’s blood pres­sure be­fore and af­ter a work­out and their high blood pres­sure will be in the nor­mal/ healthy range when they are fin­ished. The stress of the work­out has an im­me­di­ate re­lax­ing ef­fect on the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem.

While all aer­o­bic ex­er­cise can be good for you, there is an ad­di­tional bonus if you do your ex­er­cise out­doors. Be­ing in na­ture pro­vides a dis­trac­tion and a shift of fo­cus for some­one who is hav­ing trou­ble fo­cus­ing due to an anx­i­ety. While tread­mills and sta­tion­ary bikes are great tools, there is just some­thing about be­ing in the sun­shine, nav­i­gat­ing the earth that makes peo­ple feel more alive.

Here, then, is the per­fect way to ex­er­cise for some­one who is try­ing to man­age anx­i­ety.

1. Plan to do some aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, three times per week to start. Af­ter three con­sec­u­tive weeks of three ses­sions per week, add a fourth work­out. Af­ter four con­sec­u­tive weeks of four ses­sions, add a fifth day.

2. De­cide on an ac­tiv­ity you can do with lit­tle thought or plan­ning. It should be some­thing that you could do spon­ta­neously with no travel time needed to start. Hik­ing, walk­ing/jog­ging, swim­ming and cy­cling are your best op­tions.

3. Move at an in­ten­sity that in­creases your heart rate and your breath­ing. You are at the right in­ten­sity if you can only speak three or four words be­fore hav­ing to take a breath. If you can speak in an end­less mono­logue, you aren’t work­ing hard enough.

4. When­ever pos­si­ble, take your work­out out­doors and into na­ture as much as pos­si­ble. In Hamil­ton, we are blessed with seem­ingly end­less shared cy­cling and pedes­trian trails through forests and along water­fronts.

When you are faced with a con­di­tion like an anx­i­ety dis­or­der, many things are out of your con­trol. Take the ini­tia­tive to con­trol what you can; get reg­u­lar aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, out­doors and see how much bet­ter you feel be­cause of it.


While all aer­o­bic ex­er­cise can be good for you, ex­er­cis­ing out­doors seems to have the added bonus of calm­ing feel­ings of anx­i­ety.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.