The Benefits of CrossFit for Anxiety

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Cara Silverstein | November 20, 2016 | no comments |

This season it seems the anxiety level of the people around me are unusually high.  There are a lot of reasons for this. We just came out of a really tense election season (to say the least). With so much political uncertainty ahead of us, fear and worry are in the air.  We’re also coming right up on holiday season, which even at its best can be overwhelming.  On top of that, the days are shorter and darker, its getting colder, and office break rooms everywhere are filling up with sugary treats.

In the midst of all of these challenges this time of year, keeping up an exercise program is more essential than ever, and not just for the physical benefits.  Did you know that exercise also benefits mental health?  CrossFit won’t cure your anxiety but the physical and psychological benefits can definitely improve the symptoms.  Studies have suggested that regular exercise can help alleviate anxiety as much as anxiety medications, and the effects may even last longer than the drugs.

How CrossFit can ease anxiety and improve your mood:

By Greg Westfall [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Greg Westfall [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Make your own drugs: Exercise releases chemicals in the brain – neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids – that make you feel better.
  2. Distract yourself: Coming to a class is a good distraction from troubling thoughts.  It’s hard to ruminate when you’ve got a tough workout in front of you.
  3. Lower your heart rate: Yes, during exercise, your heart rate rises but over time as you get more fit, the heart works more efficiently, leading to a lower resting heart rate.  Since anxiety is typically linked to increased heart rate, regular exercise helps offset that feeling.
  4. Long lasting effects: Studies have shown that the mood boosting benefits are both immediate and long-term.  You’ll get a rush of feel good chemicals immediately after exercise, and those effects continue, allowing you to respond to stress better even the following day.
  5. Managing stress hormones: Under stress, the body releases cortisol, a ‘fight or flight’ hormone.  Studies have shown that what brings cortisol back to normal levels is movement. Since your body is expecting you to fight or flight, doing nothing can cause your body to feel more stress and anxiety.  Exercise keeps that hormone, and those feelings, under control.
  6. Better sleep: Many people suffering from anxiety have trouble sleeping.  Exercise tires the body enough that it becomes easier to sleep with anxiety.

As you feel the pressures of the season, don’t forget to make working out a high priority.  Coming in regularly will ease your anxiety and help you have a great holiday season.

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