I’ve poured a lot of time, and I mean a LOT, into finding different approaches to achieve optimal physical and emotional well-being. Feeling great about yourself inside and out is something everyone wants, and in my opinion, needs– whatever that means for each and every one of us. What works for one person might not work on another, so the most important thing is to find what works for YOU. On that note, what I advise here is merely to pass along some of the things that have worked for me, hoping that it might help at least one of you. Here we go!
On this first article, I’d like to talk about how cardio can help with anxiety. Here at Howl, it’s been pointed out how important it is to deal with anxiety. If you're like me and have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, you know how horrible the feeling is and spend a lot of time thinking about ways to make it disappear. While there’s not one magical remedy that will make it go away forever, I'd love to share something that has worked wonders for me, especially because it doesn’t involve spending any money.
SPEED AND INCLINE INTERVALS.
"Exercise won't cure anxiety or depression, but the physical and psychological benefits can improve the symptoms. Research shows that at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can significantly make a difference,” explains Sally R. Connolly, LCSW, a therapist at the Couples Clinic of Louisville in Kentucky.
Some studies have even suggested that regular exercise can help with anxiety as much as anxiety medications, and the relieving effects of exercise may last even longer than those of drugs . It’s also been shown to be extremely effective in managing depression, which frequently affects people with anxiety disorders.
Ok, here’s the thing. When you’re doing cardio, your heart rate shoots up. And as time goes by, and your fitness level improves, your heart begins to work better. By this, I mean that the heart rate between exercise sessions becomes slower, which can truly help offset feelings of anxiety. When we’re feeling anxious, out heart rate is also very high, so the main thing we need to do is find ways to be calm, and this means getting our heart rate to come back down to it’s normal slower pace. Get it?
In general, cardiovascular activities help with anxiety, including swimming, biking, running, walking, tennis, dancing, etc. There are three of these that I’ve actually tried and know to work wonders; dancing, walking at a fast pace and running.
Dancing works on everyone, I believe. Just playing music puts most of us in a good mood, but actually getting up and moving your body is magic. I don’t do professional dancing or anything. But throughout the day, mostly in the mornings, after going to the gym and before going to work, I dance. I just dance around. While I undress to get in the shower, while I'm IN the shower (in love with my waterproof speaker) and when I get out, while I dress, do my hair, makeup, have breakfast or whatever. I just play some music and get ready for my day dancing around. This gets me in a really good mood– dancing in my underwear is getting me by while I finally sign up for that dance class once a week!
Running and walking intervals has been AMAZING. I used to just run at the same pace every time I could, and although I enjoyed it, it didn’t really give me that many physical benefits when it came to my anxiety attacks– until I tried intervals. There are two kinds; speed intervals and incline intervals. I do both.
For speed intervals, the one that I love is 20 minutes. One minute running as fast as I can, one minute walking as fast as I can. That’s it. Sometimes I do two minutes running and a minute or a minute and a half of brisk walking, depending on my energy levels each day. For me, it’s veeeery hard to exercise with no music, some people love it, but I find it very hard to make it through if I don’t play some of my favorite (dance) songs, that’s what really gets me going. The numeral values may change on each treadmill, but for me, the ideal is a 6-6.3 speed for walking and 9.5-11 for running (each one is different, on some treadmills 3.5 is already fast enough for brisk walking and 6.5 is fast running, so don’t memorize the numbers).
If you're up for it, I'd really recommend doing these intervals in a park or somewhere outside! So basically all you have to remember is:
• One minute walking FAST and one minute running FAST. That’s all.
If you’re just starting out, you can try a total of 10 minutes and move up from there.
*I don’t recommend more than 20 minutes of running intervals a day since it can be harsh on your knees.*
The routine that I do (and have become addicted to) is walking fast for 25 minutes to half an hour. Set your treadmill to the pace of brisk walking but not yet jogging. Keep that up for 5 minutes. On minute 5 you incline it to level 5 and keep going. On minute 10, you incline it to 10. Minute 15 go to incline 15. On minute 20, back to incline 10. On minute 22 to incline 5 and minute 25 to zero incline.
If you only have 20 minutes then you can skip the first five minutes with no incline, and just start at incline level 5, and on minute 5 move up to incline 10, on minute 10 switch to level 15 so that on minute 15 you can start going back down.
I’ve been doing these intervals for a long time so sometimes I do it twice for a total of an hour. I just love it. It’s reduced my anxiety sooo much and helped me lose some extra pounds that I could not shed before. If you’re just starting out, I recommend doing 3 minutes of each of those levels instead of 5, and move up from there. So since this one is a bit more complicated than my speed intervals, here’s a recap:
Minute 1-5: 0 incline
Minute 5-10: level 5 incline
Minute 10-15: level 10 incline
Minute 15-20: level 15 incline
Minute 20-22: level 10 incline
Minute 22-25: level 5 incline
Minute 25: zero incline, and just cool down for a couple minutes taking down the speed as well.
Everyone has 10-30 minutes a day they can spare to do these intervals, and you’re more likely to stick with it since it's such a short time.
This exercise helps a lot with weight loss since the bursts of increased intensity keep your body burning calories for hours, it also boosts your endurance and overall health in observable results such as improving blood pressure, lowers glucose levels in diabetics (it betters your glycemic control), reduces stress, and many benefits more.
What I recommend is alternating one day of speed intervals and one day of incline intervals for a total of 3-5 days a week, depending on your energy.
Ok guys, let's make a big effort to get up and get going! I know that when you’re not used to working out, this might seem like A LOT. But in that case, just start with 10 minutes and move up from there. I promise it’s worth it.
If you know any other cardio intervals, comment on the section below so we can try them out. The goal is to help each other.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, fitness coach, psychologist, or have any diploma that has to do with health. I actually studied finance and accounting. What I am is a person very, very much interested in overall wellness.