A recent press release from the University of Georgia confirms what many mental health professionals and doctors have known for some time: Regular exercise can significantly and noticeably reduce symptoms of anxiety. Simple physical activities like walking and weight lifting can be a very effective method for people with anxiety. And the key here seems to be *regular* exercise and also for periods of 30 minutes or more.
So who needs this type of anxiety antidote? It could be someone in your family, maybe even you. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that in any given year, about 18% of the adult population has some type of anxiety disorder. Almost one out of every five adults has a significant anxiety problem, and probably many more have lesser anxiety symptoms that may still make their life difficult. So even if you know you have a more nervous personality or have periods of high stress and worry, you may find some good relief with regular exercise.
Consider the people in your extended family — siblings, parents, children, even your grandparents. Can you identify any trends towards anxiety or notice that one or more of your children tend to become anxious more easily? If so, you might want to consider an even broader approach to regular exercise — a family commitment to exercise for better well-being. OK, your kids may not quite get it if you explain it in those “big person” words. But you can easily take them on a brisk walk and point out how much more relaxed they feel when they are done.
As you continue to make your kids aware of this, they will gradually understand and remember the connection between exercise and relaxation. If they are the type that might really need this type of coping skill now, you will also set them up well for their future. When they have something they can physically do to keep their feelings of anxiety and stress in check, they will feel more in control of themselves. You teach them a stress management skill they can use for their whole life. Plus, exercise is an activity you can do as a family sometimes. Positive healthy family time can also help everyone feel more joy and content in their life. Those time help combat fears and worries when they creep in.
Some more ideas for family exercise:
- Walking in your neighborhood
- Bike trails
- Playing with the dog
Readers, what other ideas do you have about simple fun family exercise? Have you found exercise to be helpful with any anxiety symptoms you have experienced?