Exercise... when You are Anxious About Exercise

NOTE: I am definitely NOT a doctor. These are personal experiences that have helped me. Please consult a doctor before beginning any work out or exercise program... blah blah blah.

I know that everyone goes through a mind battle during a work out. Your brain is screaming "I can't do anymore!" but, the truth is you can. Your body is able.

For me and for others that struggle with anxiety, the mind battle when exercising is intensified. For one thing, anxious people experience the symptoms of fight or flight all the time without exercising: Racing heart, weak muscles, it's hard to breathe etc. so, putting our bodies through that PURPOSEFULLY is hard to get past.

Here is a summary of what I think in my head when my anxiety rears its ugly head. 
"Okay I'm gonna run. It's gonna be okay. I can do it. My mind will say I can't, but really I can." 
(See I KNOW this stuff. I really do).
"Whew, yeah, this is hard work. It's hard to breath, my muscles hurt. My heart feels like it's going to pump out of my chest. What if this is more than it should be? Am I going to give myself a heart attack? I should slow down. Oh, I am pretty far from home. What if my muscles give out? What if my heart is pounding too much and I actually give myself a heart attack. What if I collapse right here on the street? I have no phone, no ID on me. What if no one is around to find me? I could DIE right here on the street."
(Again, this is a succinct version; the battle goes back and forth for awhile)

As outrageous as I KNOW it is, the cycle of thinking doesn't stop. Before I know it, I am walking my way home to recover from my "work out" which didn't come from aerobic exercise as much as fight or flight responses that plum tucker the body out.

But no one can deny the positive effects of exercise. It is a fact that when I am in a routine of exercise, my anxiety and depression are a gazillion times better. It's just a matter of finding ways to work out that keep the overwhelming anxious thoughts at bay.

Here are a few things that work for me:

1) YouTube
I LOVE YouTube. There are endless workout videos FREE on YouTube. You can find every kind of work out style in every increment of time. Type in, "15 minute yoga" or "30 minute walking workout" or even "Bollywood dancing workout" and you'll find tons of options to choose from.

* When you are recovering from any type of breakdown, sometimes 5 minutes is all you can handle. I have been there. When starting over, there is no shame in a 5 minute walk or a ten minute beginner workout. I would search for LOW IMPACT workouts... even typing in "exercise for seniors." You gotta start somewhere. Eventually you'll work your way up!

YouTube is Free, can be done in the privacy of your home, and offers unlimited variety!

2) Use your staircase
I set up my laptop on the fifth step and turn on my favorite show. Grab a set of weights (huge 2 lbs!) and step up and down from the floor to the first step over and over and over again... alternating legs every now and then.

It's mindless movement and I am distracted by whatever is happening on the Bachellorette.

3) Dance it out
One way that I get some exercise in with my kiddos is to have a dance party. There are multiple benefits to this. You move, they move, we all giggle, and it's great one-on-one attention time for them which makes it easier for them to play on their own later so, you can get some stuff done.

What are your favorite workouts right now? Share in the comments : ) Right now I am doing mostly yoga.


  1. 20 minute flex and stretch exercises 3 times per week, daily 1 mile walk, and 40 minute bike ride two times per week. Seem to work for me. Feel great. Pretty minimal for a guy who is 19 years old (Niborian age).

  2. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is one of my favorites. I also started running again and downloaded a 7 min workout app to my phone. All are working for me right now. But I love the stair idea! Will have to try that!

    1. definitely going to look up Yoga with Adriene. Chances are I've done something from her... as yoga is my go to lately. Thanks for stopping by, Jane!

  3. Doing a 30 minute Jillian video always gets me going! Otherwise, I do try to get to the gym!

  4. These are great suggestions! I have enjoyed using a specific youtube video workout for pregnancy (Denise Austin) because she's fun and uplifting and doesn't push you too hard. Once my strength increased I was able to start power walking and jogging a bit too!

    1. Denise Austin has some awesome low impact walking workouts that are my go to when it's been a long break from exercise for me!

  5. I love dancing for cardio!! It's so fun. And I agree... Exercise has ALWAYS helped me feel better, less stressed and I feel better about myself.

    1. Before kids, I was taking some dance classes which I loved. Just the year I joined an adult ballet/lyrical class which I loved, but because of low attendance it ended. I am crossing my fingers to find another dance class. It's the ONE thing that doesn't feel like exercise to me : )

  6. It's funny because where I struggle with exercising is that if its not perfect then I don't want to do it at all. So if I can't run four miles then I'm not going to go at all, etc. I realize that is a terrible way to approach it, but my perfectionism sabotages me in a big way when it comes to exercising.

    1. Oh my Gosh! Karin!! Have you read the book Mindset? I just started it. I think it would speak volumes to you as it is already to me. We perfectionists... ugh! So frustrating.