Exercise as it relates to Disease/The benefits of exercise towards positive mental health in those suffering anxiety

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Anxiety[edit | edit source]

Anxiety is often misunderstood as a mental health disorder as the characteristics can be closely related to that of depression. Anxiety however is known as the unjust feeling of apprehension, suspicion and unease[1] . Although this is common in day to day life, poor management of anxiety is often what leads to mental health disorders and consistent reoccurrence of more severe anxiety . Anxiety is a heavily researched topic, however it is not 100% known why or how these symptoms occur. It is understood that perhaps genetics, stress, temperament and biochemical factors play a large role[2]

Typical symptoms of anxiety include:[3]

  • Breathlessness
  • A sense of detached consciousness
  • Shaking
  • Trouble verbalising
  • Chills/Sweating

Managing Anxiety[edit | edit source]

It is important to note that anxiety isn’t something that is going to be “cured”, it is something that needs to be managed and better understood by those suffering anxiety disorders. There are many existing ways that claim to manage anxiety best, including; slow breathing techniques, meditation and medications such as anti-anxiety medications. It is important to note that although medications are convenient, they are designed not to cure the anxiety but to manage the symptoms whilst psychological assistance is being utilised.[4] One of the most documented types of treatment is that of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) [5]

The Chemical Effect of Exercise on Anxiety

During exercise chemicals are released in response to the physiological changes occurring throughout the body. This is appropriate and needed to maintain the homeostatic balance, however similar chemical changes occur during high anxiety moments. During anxious times our heart rate begins to increase, our fight or flight mechanisms are activated and biochemical reactions cause abnormal physiological responses leading to the symptoms listed above. Endorphins are one of such chemicals released during exercise. Endorphin release stimulates feelings of self-worth and also have an analgesic effect, being one of the body’s natural pain killers.[6] Adrenaline plays a key part in the body during our ‘flight or fight ‘response, which is often activated during moments of high anxiety. The effectiveness of adrenaline is due to its ability to redirect blood flow to the peripheral limbs, to maximise the ability of the body to physically leave or confront a situation.[7] A very helpful mechanism when it is actually required, but usually for those suffering mental disorder this is not the case. With these high levels of adrenaline present, exercise would be an effective way of naturally managing these chemicals.

Other Benefits of Exercise

It may seem confusing and scientific how exercise can assist in mental health, but on a more humane and layman level exercise can also be seen as a simple distraction. When a person is exercising they have many more things to think about then issues that would normally cause a highly anxious mood, so in a very simple but effective way exercise can be seen as a distraction. When incorporating team sports, it also gives a social aspect and a feeling of self-worth. Studies have shown a strong correlation between team sports and self-worth, regardless of age, gender or sporting ability.[8]

Conclusion/Recommendations [edit | edit source]

Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent affecting 1 out of 20 people. Although they are more likely to happen in women, and those during early adulthood,[9] they do effect a large amount of people regardless of age or gender. There are many ways to manage anxiety, but exercise is one of the most cost effective and readily available to everyone. The chemical nature of exercise is extremely effective towards aiding the management of anxiety, as-well as the social benefits that can be had. Therefore exercise is recommended strongly for those suffering anxiety to aid in the management of the disorder.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Britannica.com.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au. University of Canberra - ezProxy [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.britannica.com.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/EBchecked/topic/29092/anxiety
  2. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/6E02F4C9EA81857FCA257BF000212085/$File/whatanx2.pdf
  3. Health.gov.au. Managing anxiety symptoms [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-p-panic-toc~mental-pubs-p-panic-man
  4. Health.gov.au. What treatment is available? [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-w-whatanx-toc~mental-pubs-w-whatanx-treat
  5. Anxietyonline.org.au. Mental Health Online [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: https://www.anxietyonline.org.au/pages/about-mental-health/anxiety/generalised-anxiety-disorder/how-is-gad-treated
  6. Fitness.org.au. Healthy body, healthy landscape | Fitness Australia [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: https://fitness.org.au/article.php?group_id=424
  7. Anxietycare.org.uk. Anxiety Care [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.anxietycare.org.uk/docs/biologicaleffects.asp
  8. Sciencedirect.com. The link between children's sport participation and self-esteem: Exploring the mediating role of sport self-concept [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1469029208000873
  9. Health.gov.au. What is an anxiety disorder? [Internet]. 2014 [cited 26 September 2014]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-w-whatanx-toc~mental-pubs-w-whatanx-dis