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After beating panic attacks successfully we know the importance fitness has in our physical and mental health. Being active has helped us breathe better, stay strong, and feel great. Nevertheless, in the past, we have experienced intense nervousness during and after exercise.
Fitness exercise is supposed to help relieve stress but instead, it can make your panic attacks worse. You may be healthy and working hard to attain your goals during the first couple of months. Then out of nowhere, they come back looking to mess with you. At times, you may be wondering why this is happening when you think you are doing things right. As a result, some of you may be afraid to continue engaging in physical activity. But as weird as it seems, exercise-induced panic attacks are more common than you think.
If you are experiencing severe anxiety lately after or while you are exercising you are in the right place. If you don’t know why you are having panic attacks, we strongly suggest visiting a doctor first to eliminate any doubts.
This article will explain how and why your fitness routine may be intensifying your anxiety and panic attacks. Also, you will discover how to deal with severe anxiety triggered by fitness activity. We will explain which aerobic exercises can help your panic disorder and more!.
How can exercise trigger panic attacks?
What happens in our bodies while we perform physical activity is very complex. When we work out pain-reducing chemicals are released that can make us feel relaxed and excited. As you may know, exercise benefits your body and mind in general. According to the National for Biotechnology information exercise helps release the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein helps with depression, anxiety, and brain function in general. And Ironically, it even helps beat panic attacks and relieves other stress-related symptoms.
However, these three stress hormones, are also released:
Cortisol – a “fight or flight hormone”. It helps your body respond to stress
Adrenaline – It causes the indiviual to have more energy
Norepinephrine – With adrenaline, it increases heart rate and blood pressure.
To know more about these 3 hormones and how they affect your health visit the Hormone Health Network, a great source of information created by the Endocrine Society.
If you have experienced severe tension, even more of these hormones are produced which can trigger anxiety or panic attacks at any time.
Therefore, you may experience cardio-induced panic attacks that can happen during or after a session of cardiovascular exercise. However, any fitness routine that requires you to work hard can make anxiety and panic attacks worse.
The reasons behind exercise-induced anxiety and panic disorder
We explained how severe nervousness can be affected by working out. You may wonder why exercising, a stress reliever can trigger anxiety attacks.
From my own experience, I had them during and after exercising. Keep in mind that even if you are in great mood panic attacks can be triggered anytime.
These are possible reasons moderate or intense fitness routines can trigger panic attacks and anxiety:
Stress levels are too high
Exercise helps relax and respond better to tense situations. However, if you went through a difficult time or just had a panic attack, your body may have released stress hormones into your bloodstream. Since cardio or high-impact exercises can also increase them, panic attacks or anxiety can be triggered.
Not stretching or warming up
Keep in mind that preparing your body for a workout is as important as the fitness program itself. This will avoid muscle soreness and injuries which may trigger severe anxiety.
Exercising too much can also stress your muscles. Remember to take a day off from exercising so your body can relax and recover.
Worried about having another panic attack…
Years ago, when I was doing aerobics a sudden moment of fear invaded me when my heart was pumping. I felt very panicky and I had to stop exercising.
If you feel afraid of experiencing one it may be a sign you may need a moment to relax. Engage in yoga, do some light stretch, or just walk until you are ready to start a more intense activity.
But… Can exercise help anxiety and panic attacks?
Working out can be a great remedy. Any fitness activity including cardio, weight lifting, and running can help your breathing as well.
Also, it can improve your mood, improve your sleep quality, heart rate, blood pressure, blood circulation, and even your mental health.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America exercise benefits “may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders.”
They also state that intense workouts “can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.” Check out other exercise benefits on MedlinePlus.
Anyone, including children, can engage in moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise. The World Health Organization recommends the following physical activity guidelines:
Children and teenagers (5-17 years) – at least 60 minutes a day on at least 3 days a week
Adults (18-64 years) – moderate intensity aerobic acivity 150-300 minutes per week 0r vigorous intensity aerobic activity 75-150 minutes per week. Also, at least 2 days a week of strength for major muscle groups
To learn more you can access a downloadable version of “WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior“.
Great tips to manage extreme anxiety after working out
For many of us who love to perform high-intensity exercises, there is a way to manage and even avoid exercise-induced panic attacks. You will love to work out more than ever.
These suggestions can help you enjoy your fitness plan and also avoid any panic attacks:
- If you are using a trainer it is best to listen to their recommendations and consider workout variations until you improve.
- It is vital to warm up before exercising and cool down after your workout.
- Also, no matter how intense your fitness plan is taking a day off is essential as well. Giving time to your muscle to recover will help your progress and get stronger. It also helps loosen and soothe your muscles.
- Perform relaxing exercises such as yoga, stretches, taichi, and meditation during your workout recovery day. To help alleviate muscle fatigue and tightness you can use a foam roller. Learn more about these bestseller body rollers on Amazon.
- Breathing is essential during your workout. Do not hold your breath.
- Keep a good posture while exercising. Keep your back straight and neck aligned with your spine.
- Do light stretches, massages, and have an Epsom salts bath to help relieve sore muscles
- Perform light exercise before sleep to help you release muscle tension.
- Practice your breathing so you can manage your stress and remain calm.
- Do some hiking and connect to nature.
- Start with minimal to moderate exercise until you make some improvement.
How to deal with panic attacks during exercise
Many years ago I was dancing to my favorite music as part of my fitness routine. To me, it was so an easy and effortless exercise. I was excited and felt so free. Until I experienced a sudden and intense fear. I thought that I was having a heart attack. I did not know what was going on.
We are sure that you had a similar situation. As you may know, a panic attack can be experienced abruptly even if you are having a quiet moment on your couch. And still, it can be a horrible sensation. Let alone when you are doing physical activity while you are sweating, your heart is pumping, and stress hormones are released into your bloodstream.
Unfortunately, not knowing how to deal with panic attacks while working out can make people too conscious about what is going in their bodies. For example, I became concerned about my heartbeats and therefore, I stopped exercising at that time.
We had panic attacks during a workout many times. What we learned from this experience is how to cope with extreme nervousness while enjoying a moderate or high impact exercise. These very helpful tips can help you deal with such a scary situation:
Remember that panic attacks will always go away.
No matter when you experience them, intense fear will not stay forever. They can be draining and stressful but on a positive note, panic attacks come and go.
Keep moving and stop gradually
If you are doing cardio, like running, cycling, or brisk walking, don’t stop instantly. Take your time to decrease the intensity until you are ready to stop. You can lie on the floor or sit while you recover. Remember to breathe.
Inhale and exhale deeply
Breathing in until your belly inflates like a balloon and breathing out helps you relax. It will make your panic attack symptoms go away sooner than you imagine.
A great technique I learned not long ago is cardiac cohesive training which I found on the Breathball app that can be downloaded right on your smartphone or tablet.
Engage in relaxing exercise until you feel better
Although it will take a couple of minutes to calm down, a full-blown panic attack may leave you drained, fatigue, and even shaky for a couple of days.
In the meantime, opt to do light stretching, walking, and yoga while your nervous system has calmed down.
Afraid to exercise because of heart palpitations?
Do you feel panicky by only thinking about going back to the gym? Do you feel safe when you are not exercising? Are you disappointed because you cannot enjoy your workout like you used to? Concerned about your heartbeats?
If your answer to most of these questions is Yes you are not alone. Believe it or not many people decide to skip exercise due to the fear to suffer another panic attack.
Years ago, I didn’t do any intense workout because I did not want my heart to increase. Ironically, the lack of exercise made my panic attacks worse.
Before I started exercising again, I knew I had to deal with my panic attacks and scary thoughts first. If you feel afraid to exercise you may be worried about having another panic attack. It means you need to do something about it.
Learn how to win the fear of working out following these helpful recommendations:
You decide when it is time to workout
Do not feel pressured to start exercising. However, keep in mind that remaining active can help relieve your panic attack symptoms. Exercising is great for your body and your mind.
Focus on a particular day you want to start
Once you decide when it is time to exercise again think you will have fun and that you will feel great. And… why not? Prepare yourself mentally before your workout day. Staying positive will help you relax.
Plan your fitness routine ahead
Depending on your mood and how you feel, begin your routine with a long walk or hike. Remember to stretch before and after any fitness program.
Remember that exercise is a great anti-stress
Among its many benefits, physical activity makes you feel relaxed and helps you cope with panic attacks. Every time you engage in a fitness workout your health, in general, will get better.
Again, take a moment to unwind, stretch, and relax so help your muscles recover, get stronger, and improve flexibility.
Keep working on your panic attack
It is very important to learn how to deal with your intense anxiety or stress so you can beat the panic disorder. Our blog contains useful information on how to confront it to help improve your quality of life.
Don’t know where to start? Our article “Can you overcome panic disorder? We can help you!” is a great start to your panic attack management journey.
Exercise with a friend or a loved one
To turn your fitness plan into a funny and exciting one you can invite a colleague or buddy. You can motivate each other which can help you stay active while you catch up.
Do not think about your heartbeats
This is an issue that I was able to overcome with time. Keep in mind that exercising will raise your heart rate which is excellent for your cardiovascular health. You will feel relaxed and happy.
However, experiencing a panic attack also will make your heart beat faster, but will make you feel stressed and drained.
If you have any worrying thoughts about your heartbeats remind yourself to breathe deeply. You will that your heart beats go down.
Shift any negative thoughts with productive ones
It is essential to change bad thought patterns for positive affirmations to help you stay positive. Many panic attacks start with negative thinking. It takes time to control them but you can do it.
Ditch your fitness tracker for now
If you are worried about your heart rate while exercising it is best to put your fitness watch away. Once you feel better you can wear it again.
It is important to monitor your heartbeats to see if there are any patterns and adjust your fitness plan accordingly. A fitness watch may be a helpful tool to help reach your goals.
Take your time
Exercise at your own pace. You do not want to compete with your trainer or fitness buddy. You know your body better than anyone. If you want to start with cardio, it is best to start light to moderate activity until you feel ready to increase intensity.
Best aerobic exercise for anxiety and panic attacks
If you love cardio and high-impact exercises like me, these workouts can help release the tension and improve your health in general.
However, if you experienced a panic attack recently we strongly advise you to engage in light physical activity while your nervous system takes the time to calm down. Also, remember to take a day off from working out so your muscles can rest which also will improve your results.
I used to dance a lot when I was a student. I just turned on the radio and had a great time. You can dance any rhythm to improve your mental and physical health, including improved muscle strength, reduced stress, better balance. and reduced the risk of heart problems. You can do some Zumba class routines via Youtube or in a gym near your area. Remember to follow the facility’sCOVID guidelines.
There is nothing more relaxing than hiking or strolling in the park. Walk at your own pace and increase the times to improve your endurance and enjoy the benefits. You can also walk indoors using a treadmill.
Like jogging, this type of anaerobic workout improves your muscle resistance and gets you stronger. Helps you to sleep better and manage your stress effectively. Also, it will improve your immune system and help your mind as well. Make sure you warm-up and cool down to avoid any injuries.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
It is a cardio session that combines periods of intense exercise with short recovery times. You can perform this workout either with weights, body weight, or other gym equipment. It can help your overall health, for instance, burn calories for a short time, lose fat, build muscle, improve heart health, and others.
Another cardio workout that can help you relax and cope with panic attacks. Doing stationary or regular cycling can help your posture, reduce weight, burn fat, improve the cardiovascular system, and health in general. Biking also helps prevent anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
What I hate about panic attacks the most is that it can alter your entire life including the way we exercise. However, no matter how intense or when they happen you can beat them.
They can trick your mind but can’t manage your life. Following our recommendations from this article will help you control your fears about working out and eventually conquer panic attacks.
If you want to know more about how you can cope with panic attacks our posts are created with you in mind. If we won the war on panic attacks so can you! Remember you are not alone in this.
B.L.A. is a web developer/designer and writer who enjoys country life in western Pennsylvania, USA along with her husband C.C.A, who is also a contributor, co-author, and editor.
Check out their other blog SmartAroundyourWrist.com.