Home » Blogs » Your Body, Your Mind » When Exercise Makes Your Anxiety Worse

When Exercise Makes Your Anxiety Worse

When thinking about how it relates to mental health, many people associate exercise with a way to manage anxiety — not something that makes anxiety worse.

However, working out absolutely can increase a person’s anxiety. Typically, what happens is a certain kind of exercise triggers a stress response in your body, which means your cortisol levels increase and your anxiety skyrockets.

Ray Bass at mindbodygreen recently spoke with holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D. and gynecologist and obstetrician Anna Cabeca, D.O. about why stress can trigger anxiety for some people, which exercises are worse for anxiety, and which exercises are best for anxiety.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like exercises that make you feel stressed and overstimulated can contribute to anxiety. Usually these are endurance exercises, also called aerobic exercises, because they can suppress serotonin production. The American Heart Association list examples of endurance exercises such as:

  • Brisk walking, jogging, and running.
  • Dancing.
  • Swimming.
  • Biking.
  • Sports like basketball, tennis, and soccer.

Life Hack: 9 Ways to Start Running

So, what about exercises that are less likely to trigger anxiety? Think about those that decrease cortisol and help your body rebalance without throwing your hormones out of wack.

Unsurprisingly (again), yoga is at the top of the list.

Says Cabeca:

Yoga in general has a beneficial effect on wellbeing and on hormonal balance. It reduces cortisol, increases the circulation of our other hormones.

Of course, as the doctors point out, it’s crucial to remember everyone is different. What causes one person anxiety might not cause you anxiety, and what helps lessen someone else’s anxiety might not help lessen yours. For example, endurance exercises don’t cause everyone anxiety; if they did, we wouldn’t have so many runners, boxers, and swimmers.

Likewise, lower-adrenaline exercises like yoga don’t soothe everyone (as much as it pains me to type that!).

3 Crucial Factors You MUST Look for in a Yoga Studio

So if you’re looking for ways to avoid the anxiety you experience while working out, think about the kinds of exercises you enjoy. You’re less likely to develop anxiety if you’re doing something you like, right?

How about you? Has a certain kind of exercise or exercises triggered your anxiety? What was it, and what did you switch to?

When Exercise Makes Your Anxiety Worse

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2019). When Exercise Makes Your Anxiety Worse. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 May 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.