Why Running Gives Me More Anxiety (and Alternative Exercises)

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Why Running Makes Anxiety Worse

I’ve never liked running. Because to me, running makes my anxiety worse.

And to be completely honest, running feels a lot like an anxiety attack.

When you’re struggling with anxiety, it might be helpful to talk to an online therapist. I always recommend BetterHelp, because it’s the world’s largest online counseling platform, and you can get incredible therapy for an affordable monthly cost.

Exercise and Mental Health

Everyone and their mother tells you that exercising is good for you. 

They tell you that it promotes a healthy lifestyle, and it will even help to alleviate problems associated with poor mental health.

But what happens when intense cardio is not good for your mind?

What if it actually causes you more harm than good?

Well friends, that is exactly what running does to me.

Overcoming Excercise-Induced Anxiety:

Running and Anxiety

HIGH RESTING HEART RATE

When I’m struggling with daily anxiety, I have a naturally high resting heart rate.

My heart rests at around 80 bpm, when studies say that a healthy heart rate for someone my age is around 70 bpm.

Because I have a high resting heart rate, I’ve always had a problem with intense forms of exercise.

Any type of intense exercise sends my heart and mind into overdrive.

Every beat feels like my chest is going to explode.

Mix that with severe anxiety, and any jolt of adrenaline automatically sends me into fight or flight.

Jogging is painful

Running has always made me feel the most uncomfortable out of any form of exercise.

It’s about the most intense form your body can take.

For me, running causes way more stress than it alleviates.

And it’s just not worth it to me when there are so many other types of exercise.

We’ll touch more on that later…

IT FEELS LIKE A PANIC ATTACK

To me, running feels exactly like a panic attack. 

Think about it.

The body goes through the same changes as the ones seen with anxiety

Increased heart rate? Labored breathing? Dizziness? Check, check, and check. 

Running can easily make you feel so out of control of your own body.

My entire body stiffens up and throbs in an unbearable pain when I run.

My chest hurts so bad that I can hardly get a breath in.

I feel like my body is trying to hold me hostage.

The only way to feel any relief is to collapse on the ground and watch the world spin around me.

This has all the makings to a recipe of a panic attack written all over it.

Try these affirmations for anxiety:

IT MIGHT CAUSE A PANIC ATTACK

Because our brains make unconscious connections all the time, our memories are tied to our physical symptoms.

Feeling symptoms that are similar to a panic attack may actually induce a panic attack itself.

When you’re prone to panic attacks, anything that feels remotely like a panic attack will automatically make your body respond in the same way. 

Heart rate increases during exercise, as well as during anxiety.

Labored breathing increases during exercise, as with anxiety.

These feelings often go hand-in-hand.

So even the thought of running causes my body to produce stress hormones.

Just the thought of having to run increases my anxiety.

And willingly inducing an anxiety attack just doesn’t sit well with me. 

Knowing that running gives me such intense feelings is enough to have me run the other way. (See what I did there?)

Working through a panic attack:

ALTERNATIVES

To me, pushing myself to run is not an option.

There are so many other alternatives that work out the body just as much.

And frankly, running has never, ever even been fun for me. With or without the panic attacks.

Here are some exercise alternatives:

🚴‍♀️ Riding a bike

For some reason, riding a bike is incredibly relaxing for me – even though you work more muscles than when you run.

Riding a bike is wonderful exercise and requires both muscular and cardiovascular endurance.

It works out almost every muscle in your body, and it makes your heart stronger.

I love soaking up the breeze and surrounding myself with nature.

I would ride for hours if my body allowed me.

🌲 Hiking

Most areas have some type of nature or forest preserve you can spend an hour or two hiking.

This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the world around you.

Explore different terrains and different sceneries. 

Don’t be afraid of marshes, forests, or mountains.

💃 Dancing

Dancing is so much more freeing than running.

There are so many different styles you can do, and they’re all so fun to just let loose to.

Yoga Booty Ballet videos are some of my absolute favorite dances to do, because they’re quirky and they fly by.

🧘 Vinyasa yoga

Vinyasa yoga is a type of yoga that focuses on the flow between movements and breathing.

It’s an incredible way to get your heart pumping in the most calming way possible.

One of my absolute favorite places to learn more about yoga poses, flows, and sequences is Yoga Download.

There are a countless selection of free yoga classes, from beginner all the way to advanced as well as different lengths.

If you find you’re enjoying yoga and want to dive deeper into the practice, you can get a membership to Yoga Download for 50% off here, which is a total steal!

The best part is you can do yoga in the comfort of your own home.

Must-Have Anxiety Checklist: 10 Essentials to Manage Your Anxiety

Overcoming Anxiety From Running

If you feel defeated or overwhelmed when people say running is the best exercise you can have, it’s okay to disagree with them.

There are plenty of other options to give you that good-for-your-heart kind of exercise.

And let’s be honest…it’s okay to just literally despise running.

Do you struggle with exercise-induced anxiety? How do you manage?

Therapy, mindfulness, and coping strategies can play a crucial role in recovery.

More posts on exercise:


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What I love about BetterHelp is that you can get incredible therapy from the comfort of your own home, so you never need to worry before getting help.

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When Running Makes Anxiety Worse

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