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How Exercise Improved My Anxiety

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

By Claire (The Millennial Londoner)


Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This blog is purely for informational purposes compiled from personal experience and reputable sources. If you require any health advice please speak to a medical specialist. This blog also contains affiliate links that allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you.


If you go onto Instagram you'll see plenty of fitness fanatics showing you an aesthetically pleasing Insta feed with tonnes of scrumptious food and intense workouts. It can feel daunting looking at all this healthy stuff that you know you should be eating but struggle the temptation of a big mac or a cheeky Nandos. I felt the same way ( and still kinda do) where healthy food made me feel good but it didn't taste good so I found myself falling back into bad habits which only made my mental health worse.

A little back story about me

I spent most of my teenage years neglecting my health and diet. I wouldn't drink water unless I felt thirsty (being dehydrated can impact your mental health too) and would eat a RIDICULOUS amount of sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks on a daily basis. At the time it didn't impact me immediately but after a while of doing this, I noticed I had more headaches, and felt groggy and nauseated almost daily.

By the time I got to college, I started experiencing lightheadedness often, and had heart palpitations, nausea and fatigue almost daily. Unbeknownst to me, my mental and physical health was declining and no matter how much I'd eat or sleep it never improved. I turned to everyone's trusted online doctor Google and would spend hours googling different symptoms and then go down the rabbit hole of different illnesses, disorders and health impediments.

I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an iron deficiency (anaemia) and vitamin B12 deficiency. This was a huge relief because it meant that I could start feeling better....or so I thought. While I was working on improving my physical health I hadn't considered my mental health so I still felt the same symptoms, nausea, headaches, lightheadedness etc.

Unbeknownst to me, I was experiencing anxiety which is something I was kinda born with but having a poor diet really perpetuated it. So while I was working on being healthy physically I wasn't working on being healthy mentally. It took a while for me to accept that I had an anxiety disorder by which point it had become severe.

Once I learned that it was most likely a combination of a poor diet and underlying anxiety that was making me feel unwell I started working on improving them simultaneously. This is when I turned to fitness

Many people will focus on fuelling their bodies and neglect fuelling their brains. This is where I went wrong when I decided to exercise properly.

How Much Exercise Do You Need Daily?

Honestly, it depends on the individual person but you should aim for at least 30 minutes a day. The key is to get your heart pumping so it doesn't have to be a vigorous gym sesh.

You can incorporate it into your everyday routine for example;

Have A Dog?

Take Them On A Long Walk

Need To Pop To The Shops?

Park Further Away Or Walk To The Store

Commuting To Work?

Get Off The Bus/Train One Stop Early And Walk

Finished Eating Dinner?

Go For An Evening Walk

Got A Treadmill?

Walk While You're Working, Reading Emails Etc

Always Use The Elevator?

Switch To The Stairs Instead

It's SUPER important to stay hydrated as this can impact your mental and physical health. I found hydrating helped MASSIVELY improve my anxiety.

Studies show that even having slight dehydration can impact your mood, cause tension and even depression. According to a 2011 study being dehydrated can impact your cognitive performance, you can read the full study HERE.

One thing that blows my mind is being dehydrated can contribute to short sleep. If you find yourself struggling to get a decent night's sleep it could be a sign you're dehydrated. You can read the full article HERE.

I know daily life can take over and hours go past without you drinking water or if you do stay hydrated it might be everything but water. It's more eco-friendly (and cheaper) to buy a reusable bottle than to purchase a bottle of water frequently.

For commuting, I'd recommend a durable, reusable bottle that can not only save the planet but also save you money. I bought a stainless steel bottle as it won't break and is dishwasher proof. The beauty of using this bottle from Just Bottle is that 5% of the purchase price gets donated to the charity Just One Ocean.

I also invested in a 1/2 gallon hydrator that indicates how much I have drunk and I know that the whole bottle is roughly what I should be drinking daily. It doesn't have to be a huge bottle you just need to remember to refill it multiple times a day.

After trying the plastic ones I found that they were great but when it comes to cleaning them it's a nightmare. You have to buy a bottle brush for it cause I've ruined two bottles by putting them in the dishwasher. If you decide to buy a plastic bottle make sure you pick the bottle without a handle built-in because they're harder to clean

I'd personally recommend the stainless steel bottles cause they are dishwasher proof. They are much more durable if you drop them unlike the plastic bottles but will cost slightly more.

I'm not sure why this turned into a hydration bottle blog post but this is what I do to stay hydrated. I found my anxiety got worse, I felt more sluggish and was exhausted for some reason when I was dehydrated.

I also recommend trying electrolytes, not only did I drink more water because it added flavour to it, but also found my headaches went away. I personally use the mixed berry flavour by BULK but you can find plenty of different brands of electrolytes.

Anywho back to how exercise helped my anxiety and how it can help you too. If you suffer from acid reflux, gastrointestinal problems or fatigue from anxiety exercising can really help with that. Acid reflux at first got WORSE for me when I started once my heart returned to a resting heart rate I found the symptoms improved dramatically.

That choking feeling, nausea, sore throat, burning sensation, and a metal taste in the mouth all started to subside. I developed acid reflux from having frequent panic attacks, the acid reflux lingered after I stopped having severe panic attacks and nothing else seemed to help it.

Having stomach problems related to anxiety can be another unpleasant side effect of anxiety. You gotta be careful if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as running can worsen your symptoms. Cycling is a popular substitute for running if you suffer from IBS or have frequent flare-ups.

Weirdly enough exercising can actually IMPROVE fatigue. I know how debilitating fatigue can be but surprisingly I found myself having a burst of energy after exercise. Exercising causes our body to convert food into energy, frequently exercising can over time reduce your fatigue and improve your overall health.

If running or walking isn't your cup of tea you can try;

- Football

- Squash

- Tennis

- Swimming

- Dancing

- Basketball

- Going To The Gym

What Can You Take Away From This Blog Post?

  • Exercise helps improve anxiety and mental health in general

  • Anxiety side effects e.g Acid Reflux, Gastrointestinal Problems can be reduced with exercise.

  • You can incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

  • You can pick a wide range of sports and physical activities to get moving.

  • Fitness can reduce fatigue over time.

  • Stay hydrated as dehydration can cause anxiety and other health issues.

  • Fuel your body correctly before exercising otherwise you might do more harm than good.

  • Be active for at least 30 MINS a day.

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