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Manage Anxiety with Activity

State of Mind

Last year was a rollercoaster ride to put it lightly! Unfortunately for many of us, that rollercoaster is still going full speed as 2021 gets well underway. All the uncertainty, isolation, and external pressures on our lives are having a real impact on the mental health of many of us.

Nearly 1 in 2 (46%) Australians aged 16–85 have experienced a mental disorder during their lifetime, with 1 in 5 of us experiencing a mental illness each year. The most prevalent is anxiety disorders, affecting 1 in 7 people of Australians. Unfortunately, these are pre-Covid numbers – with research from May 2020 finding up to 50% of the study’s 5070 Australian adult participants were experiencing elevated levels of anxiety. I’m sure you can relate to this, either personally or someone close to you.

Movement Medicine

Thankfully, we all have access to an evidence based, government approved, FREE treatment to all of these challenges and more… PHYSICAL ACTIVITY! If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be a billion-dollar industry overnight. The benefits are seriously that good!

The most important takeaway is that any activity is good activity, so do what you LOVE to do. It’s counterproductive to force yourself to go to the gym, if all you want to do is go bushwalking. Just go bushwalking! You’ll find ways to work past any difficulties if you really enjoy the activity, instead of feeling like it’s a chore.

Start Slow, Then Go-Go-Go

Even the most time-poor amongst us can make the time to get moving somehow. Here are a few suggestions that should appeal to you:

  • Go for a walk
    This is where most people start after extended periods of being sedentary – simply going for a walk. You could walk outside or in the shopping centre. You could go alone, with the dog, or with friends. Just focus on getting started – one foot after the other, doing a little more each walk!
  • Move in nature
    Combine the power of movement with the restorative effect of nature. This could be bushwalking, swimming in the ocean, or caring for a garden at home. Just feel the fresh air on your face and reap the benefits!
  • Practise some yoga
    A regular yoga practice teaches deep focus and mindful breathing, two important elements in supporting mental health. Plus you get a great workout, stretching and strengthening your muscles!
  • Go for a run
    Not only does cardio exercise improve your fitness and reduce risk of disease, it also releases endorphins that reduce anxiety and boosts mental energy. Work up to a vigorous jog/run for 30 mins 3 times a week.
  • Lift something heavy
    Working on your strength can have a significant impact on your mental health, whether you actually get stronger or not! Aim to challenge your muscles for 30+ mins a few times a week, either in the gym or at the park.

One final thought – don’t try to run a marathon before you’ve put in the ground work, you’ll just burn yourself out and be right back where you started (or worse!).

Start with 1 session a week or 5 minutes a day, and build on the success of achieving that. We’re playing the long game here, and before you realise it, you’ll feel more vitalised and centred in the mind than you have for a while.


ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007 (2008)

Newby, J., O’Moore, K., Tang, S., Christensen, H., & Faasse, K. (2020). Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. medRxiv.DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0236562

Burwood, M, 2008. “Healthy parks, healthy people.”

American College of Sports Medicine,, Riebe, D., Ehrman, J. K., Liguori, G., & Magal, M. (2018). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (Tenth edition.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Author: Michael Keogh

Michael Keogh is an Exercise Physiologist with 5 years clinical experience, using exercise as medicine to treat chronic disease, ensure healthy ageing and maximise quality of life. Learn more at He is based in the Kings Cross clinic on Thursdays, and the Kingsford clinic on Fridays, and can see clients in person or via telehealth. Call (02) 9167 9678 to book, or book online today!

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