With anxiety and depression becoming more prevalent among Australian adults, and anxiety disorders being the most prevalent psychiatric disorder, those who suffer from these disorders seek assistance managing and alleviating their symptoms.
While most people are aware of the cognitive symptoms of anxiety, such as anxious and fearful thoughts and feelings, difficulty concentrating, and irritability (or crushing existential dread in my case), physical symptoms also exist. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, muscle soreness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Add a dash of depressive symptoms—as anxiety and depression frequently coexist—which include low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and weight fluctuation. Clearly, anxiety and depression manifest in a variety of ways that affect not only your mental health, but also your physical health and fitness, and thus your gym performance. However, what if physical fitness is critical for managing these symptoms?
Not only is physical activity protective against the development of anxiety and depression, but it can also help alleviate anxiety and depressive symptoms in the majority of sufferers. Brett Gordon, Ph.D., conducted systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the effects of regular exercise on trial participants with anxiety and depressive disorders. In the majority of trials, participants received either a resistance training intervention or a control condition, followed by observation of their symptoms. Resistance training significantly improved both anxiety and depressive symptoms, according to these reviews. Gordon also discovered that twice-weekly resistance training improved anxiety symptoms in both groups through his own trial.
While resistance training has been shown to help alleviate anxiety and depression, there are always exceptions to the rule, and what works for one person may not work for another. Personally, I’ve found that the focus that comes with a consistent exercise regimen helps alleviate my anxiety symptoms by diverting my mind and body away from those intrusive, negative thoughts. Concentrating on the factors within your control, such as the training programme you select, your personal fitness goals, or any other positive influence that motivates you, can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Additionally, a programme that can be completed in the convenience of your own home, such as my personal favourite Home Body on BodyFit, can keep you motivated on days when going to the gym seems impossible. It will not always be straightforward, but it will be worthwhile.