Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Coping with General Anxiety Disorder through Daily Exercise

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) during my Freshman year of college but they said it wasn't anything to warrant treatment.  So on top of everything else I've had this condition lurking in the background.  Who knows, it could be the core of some of my bigger issues.

Today's guest post comes from Ryan Rivera, founder of the Calm Clinic.  He's personally suffered from various anxieties, failing to improve with medication or standard therapy.  Ryan sought out other ways to overcome his conditions.  He now shares his experiences and inspires others to overcome their anxieties.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / Freedigitalphotos.net

Generalized anxiety disorder is not your garden-variety anxiety that people experience normally day-to-day. It is sometimes far worse than the ordinary. It can be an exaggerated form of worry that some people may be experiencing. The cause of worry may be varied and some may not be even a cause for worry. About nine and a half million people in America suffer from this mental disorder. Health experts say that current treatments have very little success and these therapies have been marred with a lot of drawbacks. However, there have been new studies to indicate that daily exercise can help people with GAD and even prevent side effects and the expense of current modality of treatment. Let’s take a look at how actually regular exercise can help people overcome their irrational and sometimes overtly annoying anxieties.

The study

There has been a study conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina purportedly indicated that exercise can be a great help to people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. In fact experts believe that only exercise can help in great lengths those patients of GAD without great exposure to side effects and even undue expenses. The study showed that not only exercise not only helps people cope with anxiety it is also great against depression.

The results

In the study, a group of women were subjected to a six-week exercise training program. A significant percentage of women that have been engaged in various exercise programs saw having remission on their GAD. The performance is very encouraging however there is a general consensus that the study is not large enough to get a very conclusive answer and even explain the mechanism on how increased activity can help patients with GAD. That is why the researchers are looking for ways to expand their research to include additional funding. The researchers believe that there is a need to fully explore the effects of exercise on the disability and mental challenges that are posed by GAD.

The theory

Some researchers surmise that the increased activity has something to do with the ability of the brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a key hormone that helps people become less anxious and happier.  Serotonin has been known to be raised through increased physical activity like exercise. Some health organizations in the world like the United Kingdom’s National Health Service have recommended that people with mild depression should engage in exercise rather than taking anti-depressants. However the validity of the use of exercise to counter generalized anxiety disorder and depression has yet to be fully grasped. Experts agree that there is a need to have a larger and better study to understand the effects of exercise on people with GAD.

The effects

A lot of researchers are looking at the direction on how exercise can help increase tryptophan availability in the body. The hypothesis is that when the body gets tired the levels of tryptophan increase which naturally lead to better serotonin synthesis. There are many pieces of evidence showing that fatigue indeed increases plasma tryptophan. It is unclear if activity can increase serotonin levels.

The mood

There is no doubt that aerobic exercise can improve the mood. The body is meant to move and as such people that are sedentary are prone to feel depressed and even show signs of anxiety. The study suggests that the exercise itself and not the perceived rewards of working out is the reason why serotonin levels increase.

The diet

Aside from exercise, GAD suffers can also get better help with increasing serotonin levels though diet. A diet that is rich in tryptophan-creating nutrients such as potassium, vitamin D and magnesium can be an effective anti-depressant if paired with regular exercise.  The idea is to increase the levels of protein and carbohydrates so that tryptophan in food gets delivered to the brain in order to purify it to create serotonin.

The relation of serotonin and exercise has long been established and has been found to be an effective way to counter the effects of depression, anxiety and stress. Serotonin has been touted as the key reason why people become less depressed. In depressed people, the level of serotonin has been seen at its lowest prompting experts that serotonin levels are the reason why people often suffer from irrational anxiety. Researchers have been looking for the Holy Grail of treatment for GAD since current slew of treatments and therapies are not exactly great to control the anxiety symptoms.

About the Author:

Ryan Rivera is not just a health writer but an advocate of healthy lifestyle habits as well.  He believes that diet and exercise are man’s two most important protections against the debilitating effects of stress, depression and anxiety.  Please visit his calm clinic review for more helpful information.


  1. Ryan is so knowledgable on this topic! He guest posted on my blog a while ago and provided a wealth of information. I have never suffered from anxiety before, but I can see how all these things (exercise and proper diet) can help combat it a little and make it more manageable.

  2. I have Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder, Social Anxiety disorder, OCD, and PTSD. I am stable with meds. I also believe that walking really helps me when I get anxious. It gives me something to focus on and helps relieve the stress. I also do jigsaw puzzles. Focusing on finding pieces and where they go turns my mind off from anxiety. Thanks for the post. Followed you from SITS. have a blessed day!

  3. You posted a comment on my blog and I followed you back here. I haven't posted much about anxiety yet, but it does impact my life as well. I've never really talked to anyone (a doctor) about my issues, in fact I don't even know that I would have necessarily even considered it really (even after majoring in psychology in college). But then my young niece ended up needing treatment, followed by my son (he's always been anxious about many things, but he developed a severe weather phobia when he was in 2nd grade). As I did a lot of reading and research, I really had to look at myself (I have extreme issues behind the wheel of a car, or even as a passenger ... just one of my anxiety issues).

    I know exercise has been a huge help to me!

    1. I didn't even think about the issues behind the wheel! I almost have panic attacks when I get lost and really prefer to have a driver. Then I go and complain about their driving. Go figure.

  4. I know how much exercise helps me feel better, but I'm still struggling to get back into a workout routine. It's hard to start but I know I'll feel so much better.

  5. Thanks for Posting ! first time I have found a genuine post related to Anxiety Disorder