Can Exercise Cause Anxiety?

Anxiety in Women

Exercise, in general, is considered beneficial for mental health, including reducing symptoms of anxiety for most individuals. Regular physical activity can help alleviate stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood lifters and stress reducers.

However, in some cases, exercise might trigger or exacerbate feelings of anxiety in certain individuals. Several factors can contribute to exercise-induced anxiety:

  • Intensity of exercise: Engaging in high-intensity workouts or exercise regimens that are overly strenuous or beyond an individual’s physical capacity might lead to feelings of stress or anxiety, especially if it causes excessive physical strain or exhaustion.
  • Performance pressure: Some individuals might experience anxiety related to performance expectations during exercise, such as feeling pressured to meet specific fitness goals, comparing themselves to others, or experiencing fear of failure or not achieving desired results.
  • Sensations during exercise: Physical sensations that arise during exercise, such as increased heart rate, sweating, or shortness of breath, can be misinterpreted as signs of danger or panic by some individuals, leading to anxiety or panic-like symptoms.
  • Social anxiety: Exercising in group settings or crowded gyms might trigger anxiety in people who experience social anxiety or discomfort in such environments.

It’s important to note that exercise-induced anxiety is not common for most people and usually occurs in specific situations or in individuals with pre-existing anxiety or stress-related conditions. For many individuals, regular exercise can actually help reduce overall anxiety levels and improve mental health.

If someone experiences excessive anxiety related to exercise, it’s advisable to approach exercise in a way that feels comfortable and manageable. Choosing exercises that are enjoyable, setting realistic goals, practicing relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing or mindfulness), and seeking support from a fitness professional or mental health professional can help manage exercise-related anxiety and make physical activity a positive experience.