Exercise Is Better Than Xanax: How Workouts Banish Worries

Exercise Is Better Than Xanax: How Workouts Banish Worries

In today’s busy world, many people grapple with feelings of stress and worry. However, research shows that one of the most effective ways to elevate your mood and banish anxieties is through exercise.

How Exercise Affects Your Brain

Exercise causes your brain to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” many people experience after intense physical activity. But you don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap the mental health benefits of exercise.

Studies show that regular moderate cardio activity, like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, can boost your mood, relieve anxiety, and protect your brain over the long term.

Matching Intensity to Your Needs

The key is finding the right balance of exercise intensity for your individual needs. At moderate intensity, exercise elevates your heart rate and breathing, but you can still carry on a conversation. This is enough to give your brain a healthy boost.

However, higher intensity exercise can provide an even bigger release of feel-good endorphins. When you need a quick mood lift to banish the worries of a stressful day, a high intensity cardio session or burst of strength training may do the trick.

Consistency Is Key

While a vigorous workout can provide immediate mood-boosting benefits, it’s regular, consistent exercise over time that makes the biggest impact for long-term mental health. Setting a sustainable fitness routine is the best way to keep anxiety and depression at bay.

Exercising Outdoors Enhances the Effects

Interestingly, research indicates that exercising outdoors in green spaces provides greater reductions in stress and bigger mood boosts than working out indoors at the gym. So when possible, take your workout outside for maximum mental health benefits.

Exercise Works Better Than Medication

Perhaps most compelling of all is evidence that for some people, exercise can work as well or better than anti-anxiety medications to ease symptoms. And of course, exercise provides many additional physical and mental health benefits with no negative side effects.


What intensity level of exercise is best for relieving anxiety?

For quick relief of sudden stress or anxiety, high intensity exercise provides the biggest spike in mood-boosting endorphins. But for long term anxiety relief, consistent moderate exercise such as brisk walking or casual biking works very well.

How often do I need to exercise to keep anxiety at bay?

Most health organizations recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise per week, or 30 minutes 5 days a week. Aim to workout moderately most days of the week for sustained anxiety relief.

Does lifting weights help with anxiety too?

Yes! Strength training provides many of the same anxiety-busting, brain-boosting benefits as aerobic exercise. Lifting weights a few times a week is great for your overall physical and mental health.

What workouts are best when I’m feeling stressed in the moment?

If anxiety strikes and you need a quick fix, try a high intensity bike sprint session or burst of bodyweight exercises like squats, burpees or jumping jacks to flood your body with feel-good endorphins.

Is it better to exercise outdoors or at the gym?

Research shows outdoor workouts provide greater stress relief and mood enhancement due to factors like fresh air, sunlight, and engaging natural scenery. But getting in consistent workouts is what matters most, so do what fits your lifestyle best.