Exercise Induced Anxiety

In response to my call for help I received a great topic idea from one of my readers. The topic is exercise induced anxiety and whether or not lightheadedness and dizziness are caused by anxiety while exercising or is there something else going on?

If you have spent any time reading this blog or any other online resource about anxiety disorders then you know one of the most common bits of advice given to anxiety sufferers is that they exercise. Sometimes though even something as positive and good for you as exercise can cause problems.

So you walk into the gym with your brand new exercise gear and take a look around. You see that someone has just gotten off the stair master machine so you race over so someone else doesn’t beat you there. You climb on and begin the not so fun process of exercising – so far so good.

After you climb off the stair master you notice something just isn’t right. You’re out of breath, dizzy, lightheaded and the room may even be moving around just a tad. Is this anxiety or is it exercise related?

Let’s look at the connection between exercise and lightheadedness first. Can exercise cause you to feel dizzy and lightheaded? Yes it can.

You don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to feel off balance or dizzy after physically exerting yourself. The process by which this occurs is normal and not anxiety related.

The What, How, and Why

When we physically exert ourselves, a.k.a exercise, there is a lot happening in the body. First things first – your heart muscle will begin to beat faster so it can send blood to the muscles doing all the work. This in turn increases blood flow and causes your blood vessels to expand. This makes it easier for the body to send the needed blood to those hard working muscles.

When you stop exercising the blood circulation slows down because those hard working muscles are not asking for as much oxygen/energy. Although your circulation has been slowed the blood vessels in the body remain expanded and this can cause your blood pressure to fall which may cause dizziness.

Prevention

Although feeling dizzy after a good work out is not unheard of you should take steps to avoid it or at least decrease its prevalence.

There are a few things you can do to lower the occurrence of dizziness after exercising. For starters you need to eat right and keep hydrated. When we work out we are using a great deal of energy and we need to make sure that our bodies are prepared for the job ahead.

This doesn’t mean that you have to eat a huge meal before working out but you definitely want to make sure you eat at least a small snack and drink water before and during your workout.

In addition, make sure that you breathe. When people workout, especially with weights, they tend to hold their breath without knowing it. This is obviously not a good idea because your body needs all the oxygen it can get. You should think of oxygen as your fuel.

How you breathe I don’t think is as important as the pace of your breathing. Whether you breathe through your nose, mouth, or both just make sure it is steady and constant. Remember the idea is to intake oxygen not to get fancy or complicated with your breathing.

Another very important preventative measure is warming up and cooling down. Like I mentioned before when you suddenly stop exercising your blood circulation slows down but your blood vessels are still expanded. If you take the time to warm up and cool down then you give your body a chance to ‘catch up’ with your heart rate. This will allow your body to be more in sync with your heart.

In order to warm up and cool down effectively stretch before and after your workouts.  When you decide that your workout is coming to a close don’t just stop. You have to come to a gradual stop. If your running slow down to a slow jog and then a brisk walk.

If you are on a stair master simply slow the pace down gradually until you feel relaxed and not laboring to breathe. The key is to gradually stop whatever you’re doing over several minutes.

Even if you are planning only a light workout make sure to keep it steady and be certain to keep your comfort level reasonable. Working out does not have to be a punishing experience.

Lastly, be patient. Sometimes we don’t workout for months or even years. It is unrealistic to not exercise on a regular basis and then think that you can jump back into the saddle and workout very hard.

Take your time and build up your bodies stamina. There is no need to rush because your body will do what you want it to do, but you have to give it time to build the necessary strength.

The Anxiety Connection

Now can exercise bring on an anxiety attack or startled nerves? Yes it can. This is because working out causes the body to undergo a lot of the phyiscal changes that occur during a bout of anxiety.

Profuse sweating, uncontrolled breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, sound familiar? This is especially true if you are new to exercising vigorously. You may feel a little out of control and off balance. This can cause uneasiness and anxiety. But remember over the long term exercise is good for you!

It is normal to feel uneasy when you physically exert yourself. Your memory is tied into your phyiscal symptoms so much that the very fact that your heart rate is at 150 bpm can scare you. You may be making an unconscious connection between how you feel during or after a workout and your past experiences with anxiety – very normal.

As anxiety sufferers we are simply tuned into our bodies much more than the average person. So if anything feels off it becomes a great concern. We have to train ourselves to understand that not every bump is fatal.

Concerns

Being dizzy and lightheaded after a workout is not normal. It may happen from time to time but is should not be a regular occurrence. If you ever feel like you’re about to pass out sit down or lie down. This will balance blood flow and let your body correct itself.

In addition if you ever feel dizzy or lightheaded during a workout this could be a sign of a serious problem. In this case go see your doctor right away.

Remember that if you start to feel discomfort with respect to your balance and orientation to slow down. Scale back what you are doing or cut your workout short for the day.

Moreover if you tend to workout outside be sure to avoid intense heat or cold as these weather conditions can also cause problems.

Conclusion

The reader who asked that this topic be brought up did so because he is a healthy male in his 20’s with this very problem. He could not figure out why this was happening. Like many of us do when concerned about our health he went to his doctor and was given a stress test and found to be in good health.

I also had the exact same experience. I had a couple of workouts that caused me to feel dizzy and uneasy. I was tested for this and that and the doctor simply told me to breathe while I worked out and to not push myself too hard.

In other words, this is all very common. If you have this problem than going to your doctor is a safe bet. In fact if you are experiencing this problem and are afraid or if this problem is stopping you from exercising go and get checked up.

Once the test are run and you are cleared than you can feel confident about exercising safely. Be sure to follow the tips laid out in this post and don’t be afraid to burn off your excess adrenaline.

Fear comes so easily to us but at the same time we have to find a way to accept it. Accept that you’re sometimes fearful, uneasy, and anxious. But don’t accept any limitations on where you can go or what you can do. We can all be brave when we need to be.

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Comments

  1. Lucian says

    Hi guys,

    I have to write again because i have had it with this crap. A month ago I have done again a complete medical checkup. I have been diagnosed with the Lepore syndrome (13% of my hemoglobin is abnormal). This is a rare genetic disease but I have had it since I was borne and never bothered me and I should be able to live a normal life. I have been a very active person (snowboarding, paragliding, mountain biking, mountaineering etc.) The cardiologist done every possibly test on my heart. She told me that my heart is in great shape (she had me doing the athlete stress test on that bicycle). Apart from some isolated extra-systoles nothing was found. She told me this is normal. But now I am facing another problem. I have been hiking this weekend and after a 4 hours climb and then a 2 hours walk down the mountain my heart rate stayed 120+ bpm for 5 hours during the resting period and had a lot of extra-systoles during this recovery period. I have to say that during the climb I kind of stressed myself about my heart and my legs were kind of shaky. I have been drinking a lot of liquids and eat well before this. Every time my heart rate goes to 160 I get the panic. I can no longer live a normal life. They want to put me on Zoloft and Xanax but I don’t want that. I sometimes get dizzy after workout sometimes I am not. I have problems sleeping and I am a nervous wreck all the time, and feel very energy drained. I am wasting my life worrying but I can’t control this. They say it’s all in my brain. Maybe. But when my heart is racing it’s real, when I get dizzy it’s real, my backpain is real, etc. Also lately I get a lot of air hunger and I feel my throat kind of weird specially during my workout. Can anybody relate to this? Please excuse my bad english, I live in Romania.

  2. Donna says

    Lucian i hear you. I am so drained from the constant worry . I do strength training and really enjoy it but constantly get light headed and think there must be something wrong. I have had so many heart tests and the cardiologist has told me i’m fine but no my head still tells me there must be something wrong. i also suffer from heart palpatations which yes they are real and i also get this thing where i can’t get that yawn out and makes me feel ike i cant breathe properly . I am 35 and have lived with this anxiety all my life . Now that i have kids i think it is worse. I recently went on a holiday with my hubby without the kids and was worried the whole time something might happen to me. Completly controls my life I AM OVER IT !

  3. Bryan3000 says

    Alo. Ce faci Lucian? :)

    First of all, if you’re going on 4 hour climbs, odds are you are in terrific shape! It sounds to me like perhaps this could be a product of anxiety building upon itself. But, since I’m not a doctor I would recommend a few things…

    1. See a Cardiologist – One of the first things I did when I came down with anxiety was to see one. I was given a lot of tests, including a stress-test which I passed with no problem. (Despite having rapid heart beat and palps.)
    Once you get clearance that your heart is fine, it really may help you relax even in the face of symptoms you don’t like. I’ve also taken a low dose of a drug called a beta-blocker which helped keep my heart from racing when I was at my worst. Again, consult a cardiologist. (Not just a general doctor, if poassible.)

    2. I would personally recommend against drugs like Zoloft and Xanax outside of it being a last resort. It sounds like you don’t want to take them, which means you are willing to work on this naturally. I can only speak from my experience, but SSRI’s (Zoloft etc.) only made me worse… and Xanax helped a little… but put me into an awul, 6 month withdrawal period which I’m just not getting over. Coming off of that was way worse than my orignal anxiety.

    3. Look into the books and audio of Dr. Claire Weeks. Make them part of your daily life… read and listen until you know them by heart.

    4. Look into the works of John E. Sarno and Dr. Howard Schubiner – Both doctors who deal with a branch of mind/body medicine that I believe applies to you… me… and most of us.

    5. Examine every aspect of your life… and what may be contributing to stress. Work on cutting it down, coping and giving yourself time to recover.

    6. Meditation – guided or otherwise. Look into books by Jon Kabbot Zin… also great free podcasts on iTunes. (Meditation Oasis, Meditation for Health.)

    I share a lot of your symptoms and I’m by no means cured. But, I’ve been at this for a while and I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. I hope some of this helped. Keep exercising and don’t let anxiety take that away. Just get that check-up to make yourself confident that you’re fine.

    Take care!

  4. Mike says

    This too has happened to me. Except for the past 6 years, I’ve always been pretty fit. One day I decided to join a gym membership and start working out. I did push myself pretty hard with circuit weight training for about 45 minutes and felt great. About 15 minutes later, I was focusing on my heart beat and felt a little dizzy. At that point, while driving in my car, if felt anxious and began feeling a tingling feeling in both ring and pinking fingers on both hands. That got me even more worked up and had to pull over. My hands locked up tight and even my feet started to tingle. By the time the EMT arrive, i was fine. I made a doctors appointment at that time. A couple a days later, i went to a football game and started thinking about that whole episode and my heart started racing. The tingling in my fingers started again just by worrying. This time I was intent on controlling it, so i walked outside and controlled my breathing and tried to distract myself. I’ve had this feeling three times: twice after about 10 minutes following a heavy weight lifting workout, once just thinking about it. I’ve had the doctor workup and all is normal. I’ve convinced myself that I have to ease up my workouts until my body can handle it, cool down after a workout and stop worrying about it so much. Just the worrying about it can shoot my heart rate up without even working out (anxiety). One thing I have noticed, when the anxiety feeling starts to happen, I can control it by distracting myself before a full on panic attack occurs(stop worrying). One thing to note, this all started because i began having heart palpitation about a month before working out. The palpitations that occurred after my workout through me into worry and then panic. I’ve stopped drinking all the coffee and take a “1 a day vitamin”. The palpitations have stopped but the anxiety from the first episode lingered. I seem to be doing much better now.

  5. Lucian says

    Hey guys. Donna and Bryan thanks a lot for the reply. It really means a lot to me and I hope you will get well fast. Bryan “fac bine acum :)”. I have seen by now 5 cardiologists. They all told me I am fine and fit. I have good days and bad days. This morning when I woke up all my muscles were hurting me specially my back muscles and had really bad palpitations (extra-systoles and 120+ bpm plus being aware of my heart activity). I took my bicycle for a one hour ride and the pain was gone also my palpitations were gone. Now I am in the resting period and I have a heart rate of 56 bpm and no palpitations. It is clearly not an organic problem. I have to say that I am seeing a psychologist. He is saying that my problems are from my childhood. (I am a 29 years old male now). My father was drinking heavy and was coming home beating my mother and I was always defending her ending up being beaten by him. He once took a knife and told me he will cut us both. My mother tried to commit suicide 3 times and I was the one to find her half death. But I thought I am stronger than this. At that time I got over it really fast and now I am not thinking about those things. What bothers me is that the one thing that made me feel really good (sports) scares me like hell sometimes. I hope I will get over this soon as I want to get into skydiving this spring. What I found to help me is drinking Gatorade during exercise and there is also a medicine called Aspacardin. It contains magnesium and potassium. I wish you all the best.

    Thank you,
    Lucian.

  6. Shriam says

    Dizzy lightheaded and mild panic post workout – 12 hours later

    Hello.

    Yesterday I felt dizzy and lightheaded with a mild panic attack 12 hours post workout.

    I usually workout early mornings, and after a couple of years of no exercise, I started working out two months ago.I started out with cardio (elliptical) for 15 min and slowly built it up to 35 min. Occassionally did weight lifting about 4 times in two months. I kept the heart rate at 120.

    On Tue this week, after 2 months of cardio, I decided to up the intensity by introducing HIIT (High-intensity interval training). I did about 3 min of high intensity elliptical (about 157 heart rate) and then finished the rest of the workout at lower heart rate (abotu 133).

    Repeated the same on Wednesday, and went to work. 12 hours later I had this light headed feeling and started to panic. I thought I was dehydrated so took about 500ml water and some M&Ms. But it didnt stop after a few minutes. I decided to pop in one aspirin (thought I was having a heart attack). After a few min I was still feeling woozy spaced out but was ok enough to drive back home.

    When I came back home 1 hour later and started to eat dinner the dizzyness came back, so I stopped and layed down.

    Today I am fine but there is some mild spaced out feeling, I can’t get rid of.

    I dont know what to do. Is there anyone who can give me some ideas on what could be happening? I am fairly knowledgeable about medical terms and physiology. I just want to make sense of the root cause of the problem.

    Thank you in advance.

  7. nick says

    Hi
    I posted a comment about a month ago so this is just an update.After having all the same issues you are all explaining .I have taken my doctors orders and continued with mild exercise everyday(when possible).I take medication (paraxetone) stayed away from all types of caffeine such as chocolate,coffee,alcohol and tea,I must admit my doctor was right i am feeling nearly a 100% and am living normal again.People say to stay away from the medication but it has worked for me, or maybe it is my healthy living.My physcologist told me it was more than likely my childhood but it never bothered me for 40 years.What my doctor told me that it was a chemical imbalance in my brain which was causing this problem.I am now believing this is true and have found that i have gone from a stressed out person to a relaxed person being able to function like i used to.People may bag medication but sometimes this might be the only answer.What it does is send the brain messages to the right place and back again.I have been told to stay on this med for 6 months so i will keep you all posted
    Cheers Goodluck

  8. Jimmy says

    I loved the opening information, it described me perfectly.
    I have had constant dizziness for at least 4 years now…I went to a variety of doctors and ended up at mayo in Florida and they “guessed” I had bilateral dissient superior canals, but the C-scan did not show it for sure…I had two major surgerys in the last 2 years to “repair” inner ears, well that hasn’t helped and was not the answer….I am now trying balance excercises and just started some blood pressure medicine to treat possible ‘migraine vertigo”. It will take several weeks to see if this helped. can only wait and hope.

    Jimmy Washington
    Antianxiety-drugs.com

  9. Scott says

    It’s great to find others that have anxiety when working out hard. I’m 57
    and run sprints in masters track meets and I workout hard 3 x wkly on the track doing repeats then I hit the gym hard for 90 min. What
    happens to me is I warm up — and about 80% of the time when I finish my 1st of several repeats I feel panicy, anxious, disorderly, and I usually want to take my shirt off and stop the workout. It’s a very uncomfortable and scary feeling. It usually goes away in a minute or two then I’m ok for the rest of the workout. I also went and took a stress test and my breakdown is 178hb/min and I had this above mentioned symtoms after that test. All the Dr said was to go easier or start taking a beta blocker. I’ve done neither. This problem is always on my mind and does hinder my workouts. This past week I have been easing into the hard training mode by adding an additional repeat but slowing down on the first 2.

  10. sjh says

    Hi Shriam

    Sounds like you may have just panicked about what sensations you were experiencing and this led you into feeling more panicky, it’s anxiety and it will pass and it wont kill you. You may have been feeling a less energetic that day already and exercise was a bit too much for you. Our bodies are not machines we are just human beings. Just try to hold onto the thought WYTIWYF (what you think is what you feel) if you can change what you think you will see how it changes what you feel.. … Hope you are having a great day. Keep up the exercise ! I write from a place of personal experience so all we can all do is know it will pass and there is more right with us then wrong with us.

    cheers

    S

  11. Todd says

    I have exercise-induced anxiety, but its not what is described in this article. I feel fine (emotionally) when exercising. The problem is a few hours later. Then it feels like my blood sugar level has dropped from the workout and I feel extremely anxious/depressed and a rather lonely/ heart broken feeling. Not good! Often I’ll work out in the evening and wake up the next morning feeling emotionally horrible. Eating makes it better. Even when I dont exercise, my anxiety/ emotional state seems very dependent on eating. I have checked my own blood sugar many times and ever found anything unusual. I’ve quit exercising because Im having so much anxiety these days that I just cant bear to bring on more with the “exercise hangover” as I call it.

  12. Michael says

    Hi Guys,

    I also suffer a similar problem. I work out with heavy weights at the gym and often feel light headed after sitting up from a bench press or while working too hard. I believe mine is due to breathing intensely to try to avoid any heart problems from not breathing enough. The end result is over breathing which in turn causes dizzyness.

    My question to you all is how many are smokers? Donna you mentioned you get that can’t fully yawn thing. I used to get that often from about age 26 it started. I am now 33 and it has mostly completely gone as I quit smoking 3 months ago and it went shortly after quitting. I believe it had something to do with COPD (emphysema) as more commonly known, early stages of it and since quitting my lungs have repaired a large portion of the damage. Emphysema can occur in early ages from smoking.

    My heart palpatations began when I was 26 when I used to catch trains long distances to and from work. I found it double beated around the time I tried to relax, closing my eyes or trying to un wind for the journey. Shortly after it followed me home also. I also dropped too many coffees and this helped somewhat but I found the single biggest help was breathing more.

    I was a smoker at that time and I think I wasnt getting enough oxygyn to my heart as I was “too relaxed”. After which I got on edge and became more alert, almost to the point of being anxiuos about making sure I sucked enough oxygen.

    Anyway now it’s mostly habbit and I breath good doses of air and my palpatations are gone.

    Not sure if they were in my head but it makes sense to me.

    BTW quitting smoking was one of the hardest things ive had to do, and I suffered anxiety for the first week and felt sick and tired and depressed. But now it’s gone and I feel stronger, fitter, my lungs can now breath.

    Good luck everyone.

    Thanks,

    Michael

  13. Donna says

    Hi,

    Thanks Michael for your input. I am not a smoker so i don’t think my problem has anything to do with that . I do believe i have slight asthma which causes this to happen when around smoke or dust and some other allergens.

    Good to hear you quit

    Cheers
    Donna

  14. Eddie says

    I am a 45-year old male that runs and lifts weights 5-6 days per week. Many of my workouts include intense running intervals and fairly heavy weight training. I have had many instances during my workouts where I will become light headed, short of breath and start to feel like I’m going to pass out. Usually I can weather the storm by concentrating on my breathing and convincing myself that everything is okay. However, there have been times where I have to leave the gym or cut short my run because the anxiety symptoms become overwhelming. In the most severe situations I have resorted to taking a Xanax which provides complete relief within 15-20 minutes. There have also been some instances where I have taken half of a Xanax around 30 minutes prior to working out in order to avoid the potential onset of the troubling anxiety symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle that comes and goes and I can emphathize with all of you other anxiety sufferers.

  15. Tiff says

    Thank you so much for this article!! I am a major sufferer of anxiety and panic. I’m not overweight, but I smoke and I AM out of shape. I don’t exercise at all. In the last 2 days I began working out and doing cardio, and tonight was my first jog. When I stopped, I suddenly noticed that I was really dizzy and it felt like the room was wavy. It worried me so I googled it and found this. Thanks :)

  16. Rebecca says

    As I was reading this, I was especially drawn to Mike’s post on Nov 10, 2011. This exact thing(tingling and my hands locked up) happened to me after a heavy workout and it scared me so bad that I have not worked out since. It’s been about 6 months and I am so ready to jump back into exercise but I am terrified that the same thing will happen again. After reading this, I feel fully confident that I can begin exercising again. I will take baby steps and not do too much too fast. But I want to thank each and everyone of you for taking the time to post your feelings and experiences here. Especially, Mike thanks to you. I’m so glad to know that I am not the only one that has had this experience. I know dealing with anxiety is not a fun thing but I think in the end it will only make us stronger individuals.

  17. Brian says

    Todd,
    Have you ever been checked for hypoglycemia? That use to happen to me and my blood sugar would read fine, but it is the sudden drop that causes the symptoms that you describe.

  18. Trevor says

    Hello Everyone,

    I just wanted to say that I too have the same symptoms that most are reporting. When I come into work in the mornings, I always have 1-2 cups of coffee to start off the day. I almost always try to eat as healthy as possible. I am able to work out 4 times a week, with taking 1-2 days off on the weekends to rest and enjoy life. I’m not extremely skinny or overweight, but I could stand to lose a few pounds. When I do get ready to go for a workout, I always feel like an anticipated feeling that my heart starts to beat a little bit faster, almost like an andrenaline rush. When I get into the gym, I try to do exercises that limit my heartrate so that I wont have that feeling of increased heart beats that freak my out. When I do get those feelings, my heart rate is right around 200-210bpm. I’ve checked this rate on the heart rate monitors on the elipticals or stationary bikes they have at the gym. When this feeling happens, I get really weak, nauseated, clammy and sweaty. I almost always feel an urge to rush to the bathroom and evacuate. I’ve been to many doctors and even cardiologists to determine a cause and they said the results of the stress test and ekg were normal and there’s nothing wrong. I was diagnosed with GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and since have been on zoloft daily. I’m going to talk to another doctor about a Beta-Blocker to slow down my heartrate when exercising to reduce the anxiety caused. I appreciate everyone telling their stories, its comforting to know that I’m not the only one facing this challenge.

  19. wasim says

    i would like thank everybody here for the valuable comments……i think it makes u half stress free when u learn that u are not alone fighting this deamon(anxiety)…Was admitted in ccu cardiology for my out of control heart beats only to learn that it was a panic attack…..only the one who has suffered it can understand my feelings…..

  20. says

    Guys I am right there with most of you, I am 53 years old and have had some anxiety all my life, but it has really taken a turn for the worse in the last year or so. I have always been in pretty good shape and my wife always has called me the energizer bunny, It all started for me a little over 1 1/2 years ago. I new my colestrol was high , I tried to change that by changing my diet, I did all the right things I just have it in my genes to have high colestrol, So I let the doctor put me on a statin drug, I took it for about 2 or 3 months and I noticed I was getting weaker in the weight room and my shoulders were kelling me all the time. I had to get off the statins. I was still eating healthy and doing all the right things, but my strenght and endurance were no longer what they were befor. Now of course I have been all over the internet trying to dianose myself. I am not sure I even have one yet, but I eventually I got my doctor to check my T level on my last physical, I don’t know why he has’nt checked it before now. But anyway It came back low, 265 was suppose to be between 500 and 700. This could be the result of my worsening anxiety, but I still don’t if it is anxiety. MY doctor wanted to put me on testostrone patches. I tried them ,but they just increased my anxiety. He also wanted me to take antidepressents, I tried that and it just made me have the blaz. I don’t really know If the low T is tied to the use of the statin, there is some info on the web that suggest it does. I know now that when I exercise I do very well until I really get to exerting myself, and then all at once I feel like I am going to exspire it I take one more step. I still feel like have the strength in my legs but the light headedness and the feeling in my chest is awful, and I have had the stress test recently. I have recently started taking 50mgs of zinc. Maybe I write some good news later , good luck to you all and God Bless.

  21. ray says

    I haven’t worked out in 5 months because the last time I did, my heart did a flip flop that sent me to a knee and then to the ER. It happened again a week later. Then, in the following weeks, a flurry of palpitations and labored breathing. I’m 37 and have always been very fit. Very little body fat. I have worked out religiously for 20 years–until the palpitations started. The EKG was normal; the stress test was normal. But now, every time I lift something heavy I feel like the adrenaline and my heart do not like it. Today I moved a heavy table and then felt “off” for about 30 minutes. I was running 4 miles a day and bench pressing 200 lbs until I hit this wall. I’m paralyzed with fear and I don’t know if I’ll be able to lick it. I am taking a half ativan about once a week whenever I feel like my breathing and heartbeat are out of whack. My father died of a heart attack at 41, so the specter of that is undoubtedly messing with my head. I realize on paper I am a classic anxiety case, but you know when your body is just not in sync. I don’t know what to do… take an ativan every time I want to exercise? I’m afraid if I do that, and I still have an attack, it will get out of hand because I won’t have a pill to take to calm my fears. I’m wondering if a beta blocker might be helpful but I have read a bunch of negatives about that, too.

    Thanks.

  22. Jodie says

    I just started working out again after almost five months. Worked out 30 minutes last evening on my eliptical; felt a little “jittery” afterwards but full of energy; a few hours later I felt like I had just had too much caffine when it was time to go to bed. I did not sleep very well; this morning got to work and did not feel myself, was feeling anxious, shakey, couldn’t concentrat and felt as though I was starting to have an anxiety attack. This happend to me once before last March 2011 when I started working out for the first time in quiet some time. don’t know if it could be a hyperthroid thing or if it is just my anxiety. Since my surgical hysterectomy a year and a half ago I have much, much more anxiety so always thought it was due to menopause at such a young age (43). Wondering if anyone could give me some there advice on this? I may have to start something for my anxiety; I have always had some anxiety my entire life but never taken anything for it; but I am willing now to get on something; it’s hard some days to function otherwise. I also have had my thoughts throw me into an anxiety attack;not fun. Any help or advice would be very much welcome.

  23. Chad says

    Thank you for the wonderful blog and info. I’ve experienced this twice after my last two runs. I’m training for a 5k and I was becoming concerned this would be hinder my training.

    After reading this, I feel much better about my situation and will implement your tips into my work-out.

    Thanks again, you’ve really helped me out.

  24. Tom says

    Excellent blog and info. I work overnights 12 hour shifts 7 days on 7 days off. I used to workout after work but I couldn’t sleep afterwards and work demands increased like every job. I stopped working out for 7 days plus my weekend off. Now i try to cram 4(most i get is 3) workouts in 5 days plus change my sleep schedule. June of 2010 I suffered a bilateral bicep tear and had to stop working out for 6 months so depression and alcohol set in. Now a year and a half later I’m experiencing post workout anxiety. I feel great during the workout but 1/2 hour after i get home the anxiety kicks in. I’m 53 years old and have been working out on and off(mostly off) since 16 yrs old. I believe part off my problems are the pre workout supplements i take which have much caffeine also at work I need to do energy drinks just to concentrate. My anxiety comes mostly from sleep deprivation. I tried not taking pre workout supps and my workouts were lifeless and flat. Its like my endorphins just tank after about 1/2 hour after i come home then anxiety & depression set in.

  25. nick says

    Hi everyone , just an update for you all.6 months ago i suffered all the symptoms that you have all talked about.I entered this site to find people similar to me and my issues,and there was and is still plenty of you all.
    Anyway i have just finished a six month treatment of antidepressants(I was out of options at the time.) during this time on the medication i became a robot to these terrible drugs,with every side effect possible,at 1 stage i believed i was getting worse. Told my doctor and he said “you have to put up with the side effects to get better” pigs arse I slowly tapered myself off them over about 2 months (that was worse than being on them)and started to feel i was going back to where i started,anyway a friend of a friend recommended a iriodoligist(naturpath) and within 2 weeks i have become the person i new i always was with no side effects. I back into full swing doing everything i used to do,I even feel like im 20 years younger and have heaps more energy than i can remember, unbelievable. A few quick tests (zinc test look it up) and some strong multivitamins and i cannot believe i just spent the last year debilertated and hiding from the world. If you have not tried a naturpathist i strongly recommend, you have nothing to loose.
    Cheers Nick :-)

  26. Scarlet Smith says

    Hi,
    This blog is really great. Its given me hope!. Over the last couple of year (especially a year ago) i started to get anxiety. And its slowly begun to get better. Infact its now got to the point where i can go several days without it een crossing my mind. However today i decided it was time to try get back into the gym. I hadnt been in 4 months. But i still ate well, and did alot of walking ect….so not exactly a complete slug. I decided to take it easy, so not to put myself off in the first session. I did an inclined walk for 15 minutes. The first 5 minutes were fine. But after a while i was feeling an all to familiar feeling. My heart rate increased unproportionally to the exercise i was doing, and my breathing felt forced. Like my body wasnt telling me i needed to breathe harder, but i was breathing hard as i felt i needed the oxygen (hard to exaplain. I also felt i had a tight throat and jaw, making it harder to breath. I decided to stop, which i did gradually. I stepped off the treadmill and you no that weird light footed feeling you normally get…Well i had that x100 but all over my body, including in my head. It was so surreal. I felt so out of it, that i didnt even think to panic. But i felt very light headed and it passed within 10 minutes. Im unsure whether this is to do with my anxiety, as it hasnt come out like that in so long, or whether theres anouther cause. I am going to see a doctor next week just to be sure. I am just anoyed as i get put off things so easily when i feel something bad like that will happen. Guess im just goig to have to force mylsef back to the gym and take it really slow.
    Thanks

  27. Jeremy says

    Hi Everyone
    wonder if anyone has a similar thing that happens to me. i can exercise and have a swim most days although not to strenuously and can go for walks as long as they are flat but if i exert myself then i don’t feel anxiety afterwards although i might feel a bit tired and my voice gets croaky. but when i lie down and go too sleep as i am falling asleep i have physical reactions that cause anxiety and i am wide awake this will go on for a few times and it can take me up to 4hrs to finally fall asleep
    any suggestions or anyone who has something similar
    cheers
    jeremy

  28. Patrick says

    Gentle to moderate exercise burns off adrenaline. Strenuous exercise can cause the body to produce excess adrenaline, which can persist in the body for hours after exercise. This adrenaline can cause anxiety.

    Also, feeling tired, dizzy, flushed, an elevated heart rate after a workout can act as a secondary feeling to a person as a anxiety symptom. The bodies association with this to feelings of anxiety may induce a panic attack in a person.

    It is best to start slow in the gym, build up after 1/2/3 weeks of exercise to more intense training. Eat a proper diet, get your ideal nutrition, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. Also, have a physical done to know where your at in terms of health, what you can and cannot do, nutrition etc!

    There is really no cure, this is all normal to people who suffer from anxiety. With the right coping skills, you can power through it! Most importantly, don’t let it control you or prevent you from working out. The more you let it bother you, the more it will become a problem!

  29. Nan says

    what you said is true. I have started back at the gym and when i am tired and get on the elliptical machine sometimes I feel dizzy and start to get anxious. I wasn’t sure why. One of the girls I work with said she did too when she was trying to read with also listening to music and using elliptical machine. Today I went and just listened to my music and it was much better. Also, I have noticed that when I go to the park and just walk, even if it is for a few miles I never seem to feel anxious. i don’t know if it is because I am outdoors or not. Thank you for this website. I just started talking to a professional about my anxiety because it starts to control all parts of your life which is no good anymore!

  30. dan says

    hi,im a 29 yr old male in pretty good physical shape always active a couple weeks ago while working out i noticed i was getting slightly lightheaded so i took a few days off at the gym.for about a week now i have a slight dizzyness feeling going on and my neck and back are tight and sore but my back usually bothers me from the work i do (ironworker)hard to explain but my vision seems off hard to focus im not sure if its workout related or not but i made a eyedoctors appt and go from there i tend to work myself up when things are off so i would say i prob suffer slightly from anxiety..what do u guys think?

  31. Patrick says

    @Nan – Don’t worry about it., I get dizzy on it too. Like I miss a step or the rooms gonna go upside down for a second it feels like. Make sure you’re well hydrated and not starving when you go to the gym. I know it’s my anxiety so it doesn’t get me nervous. I get dizzy just sitting watching TV sometimes, walking, things move or the room slightly shifts or like I’m spinning. It’s anxiety, just remember and tell yourself that! But I know what you mean, it can be scary and overwhelming. I hate it too and it bums me out! But the more you let it stop you from doing the things you would otherwise enjoy, the more it will control your life.

    Try Holy Basil or drink honey balm tea when your anxious.

    Don’t let the professional give you meds!

  32. Jack H. says

    I read all your comments .i was the same now my activity is swimming relaxing swimmin short distance in warm pool (not pushin to the limits) no anxiety , no panic attacks only joy and relaxin after the swim my bpm is 60 i feel reborn sleep like baby , try it i want to help you , forget about heavy workouts, saunas , world record runnings, these are hard for people with anxiety and panic attacks (you can have beautiful body with swimming and relaxin morning aerobics daily instead of pushin ur body to the limit). . . Swimming is the answer.

  33. ray k says

    Scarlet and others,
    I’m 37, male. I have been going through the same ordeal for months. A year ago, I was doing p90x, running 5 miles a day, lifting weights. I have been exercising my whole life. Then, suddenly, I started experiencing heart palps, flutters, flip flops. One day in the gym, while on the treadmill, my heart rate shot up to about 230 bpm for about 2 minutes followed by flutters. A week later, while using the cables, my heart just suddenly thudded taking the wind out of me. I called the ambulance and they just gave me an ativan, talked to me until I was calm again.
    My father died of a heart attack at 41. They did a stress test, ekg, and echo which were all normal. They think it’s anxiety. I think it has something to do with adrenaline. When I lift something like a box of books or reach for something high up in the closet–anything that requires me to bend my legs for support–my heart seems to be doing something, as though its overcompensating for the extra adrenaline. And I am fatigued constantly now. My muscles seem to tire very easily, too. Like if I have my arm elevated to hold my phone, I have to switch arms every 30 seconds. These phenomenon are all new and terribly annoying.
    Anyway, I am now officially afraid to exercise. I walk every day and try to avoid being sedentary, but I really miss sweating and feeling that runners high.
    Like most other people in here, I try to convince myself its anxiety, but fear that something more sinister is lurking.

  34. nick says

    Dan how r u mate
    Please read everything i have posted on this site as you have exactly what i had and hopefully you can beat it before it gets the better of you ,because if you tackle it now you will have a better chance later on

    Cheers nick

  35. Trevor says

    Ray K,

    It’s amazing the symptoms you have compared to the same ones I have. I’m 25 and I feel like I’m going crazy because, it doesn’t matter how many doctors or specialists I see, they say that nothing is wrong. I’ve been dealing with the symptoms you have for about 4 years. I am in the military and I try to stay as active as I can to maintain the physical standards I need too. It’s the feeling of running that I do miss the most as well. I decided after my deployment that I am going to continue working out and only try to start slow with progressing the level of exercise slowly. I’ve noticed that I can run 2 miles and most of the time I feel fine. I try to push through any heart palps or flutters I have, because like I said, the doctors do just tell me that it’s anxiety and I’m not going to die from it. I’ve had the same tests you have and everything is normal. The only thing that keeps me wanting to learn more about anxiety and how to deal with it are people I can relate to. Keep up the working out Ray, they do say that exercise is the best way to deal with anxiety.

  36. ray k says

    Thanks, Trevor.
    When I was your age, I hadn’t a care in the world and thought I would live forever. I think in some ways, if you must deal with it at all, it may be a blessing for you that you’re dealing with this now instead of later. Because I am so set in my ways now at 37 and have been in my routine for so many years, it is that much harder to adapt to these changes. I miss strenuous exercise so much! I did 50 push ups tonight and did some dips with the chair. I’d like to start jogging a little bit, soon. It’s amazing how terrifying this can all be despite the reassurances from doctors. And I know that exercise is so beneficial in the long run. I don’t want to meet a tragic premature end like my father.
    Good luck in your endeavors!
    Ray

  37. Mary says

    I had to recently quit using a treadmill due to a toe injury and start using an elliptical. I am always jittery and out of breath while on it and my knees feel like they are going to buckle. I feel fine while walking outdoors and just out of breath while on a treadmill. I do have mild asthma. I am concerned about how I feel on the elliptical.

  38. Caroline says

    Ray, do you think that sub-consciously you’re thinking that you are nearing the age when your father had the heart attack, and its getting you all worked up into a panic attack? You had an EKG and an echocardiogram right? They also tested you while on a treadmill, right? If not you should have that test just for peace of mind. Are you on any blood pressure medication??

  39. ray says

    Hi, Caroline,
    There is no doubt that the specter of my father’s death is with me constantly. I have heard so many times that heredity is more often the culprit than even diet and lifestyle. My life has really gone into eclipse the last couple years. A new city with no friends, the rigors of law school, and no exercise has created a perfect storm of anxiety. I’m starting to think I’m suffering from depression, too. I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I am not on blood pressure medication. My BP has generally been okay. A beta blocker has been mentioned, but I’m hesitant. I have heard they can cause some havoc. I am basically just terrified of having another episode of heart flip flops. I am meeting with the cardiologist again tomorrow. The stress test in May was normal. I’m sure he is going to tell me it’s all stress related. Whatever the cause, it doesn’t lessen the fear.

  40. alan says

    I have not read all the posts above but it’s quite amazing, I thought I was just odd. I have had anxiety for most of my life and have been on meds for the last 15 years (I am 47) I have been a casual runner since my late teens, 5-10 km sometimes a few times a week, sometimes a few times a month. I always feel anxious before my runs. I am competitive with my self and like to track my progress, pace,weight,best km, etc. I think this makes me a little anxious like you might get playing a fast paced video game. I am not sure I get a runners high very often. I am probably not relaxed enough. A couple times a year my nutrition, mental health and sleep all fall into place and I have a fantastic effortless run.

  41. kenyanscorp says

    Rayk

    Pls take a look at the article on anxiety induced chest pain, where i hve posted. I had a similar reaction. Paul has given me a beautiful reply.

    In your case i would suggest stop overworking, dont do so for more than 30-45 minutes cardio and light weights included. Heavy weights can weaken the heart. Just google the term Ironheartjournal, you will know what i mean. Heavy weights like deadlifts and squats place a tremendous demand on the heart. I hve consulted a lot of body builders and they are pretty skeptical about the same. They too advocate fitness exercise of cardio and light weights. Eat well, sleep well. Avoid coffee tea colas, chocos. Take magnesium supplements, vitamins B and c go for fish oil. I had this thumping feeling exactly at the time period that you posted your blog. Pls dont take betablockers unless absolutely necessary and prescribed by the doc. They can reduce your exercise capacity a great deal simply by holding onto the heartbeat. Extreme workouts might depelte your body of Potassium, mg, vitamins.

  42. Clair says

    Great to read other peoples experiences too. I’ve been suffering with stress/anxiety since Feb this year. I took 9 weeks off work and although I’m back on a phased return, I struggle somedays with high levels of anxiety and the odd panick attack. I previously ran 4 times a week, biked & climbed. I’m struggling to get my fitness back which I’m finding frustrating. The main problem is running. I’m often tight in my chest and running is almost impossible. Only a few months ago I ran miles without giving it a second thought but now I’m lucky to get through 3 miles, and needing to stop many times. I dont know if running is making my anxiety worse or not? The doctors just tell me exercise is good, but my reiki therapist says too much is not good when you’re stressed. Can anyone advise if I should keep trying or how to overcome this?

  43. kenyanscorp says

    Clair

    Are you on BP meds. Secondly exercise is better in the early mornings, as the day goes by, it is better not to exercise for reasons to do with increase in cortisol. I used to deadlift in the evenings, i hve entirely stopped the evening workouts which is more stressful. Secondly anxiety is temperature sensitive so later day workouts are not advisable not just for anxiety patients. Hope this helps.

  44. says

    Thanks for writing this article. It was very reasuring for me as I am currently having anxiety problems due to nicotine withdrawal. (And I have quit smoking to help in addressing my hypertension.) Cheers from the Philippines!

  45. Clair says

    Hi, I’m on Citroplan & also levothyroxine due to thyroid problems. My training varies from daytime to evening (to fit in after work or weekends) Will bear in mind the temperature too as I do overheat at the moment. Do you think running is still ok? I guess some sessions will be easier than others depending on anxiety levels at the time?

  46. kenyanscorp says

    Claire,

    Since thyroxine increases heart rate when you are supplementing the same with running, can it lead to side effects, this is something you need to ask the doc. Dont merely research on the net.

    Secondly Citroplan is an psych drug and these do have ill effects such as exercise intolerance.

    Pls bear in mind that most docs dont exercise and have no practical awareness of sports physiology.

  47. says

    Clair

    You have probably figured this out for yourself, but the advice I would give regarding running as mentioned by someone earlier would be to avoid doing it during the hotter parts of the day and also to go easy on hills, don’t include any really steep inclines. I used to run uphill in the heat and when I did the probability of post exercise anxiety was always higher. Good luck.

  48. says

    Thank God I found this! I thought I was going insane! I finally had gotten my anxiety under control when I was hit with a day long panic episode a couple weeks ago. My doc said it was induced by my being unhealthy, drinking, re-introducing meat into my diet, and basically, overloading my liver with toxins. So, I decided to quite the drinking, only lean white meat every other day, and getting rid of this unsightly gut.

    To my surprise, my anxiety this week has been worse than it has been in well over a year! After reading this, it makes perfect sense (and actually ended my anxiety….first time reading about a condition has actually helped me….hypercondriac here).

    Clair, I would like to offer you some advice. I am on an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety med, and Levothyroxine (soon to be off the first two hopefully). I don’t know how long you have been on your thyroid med, but I do remember very well how until mine was regulated I experienced rather intense heart palpitations and high pulse rates. My first advice would be to have your levels checked again. My second advice, would be to go to an experienced trainer at a gym (you can often get free consultation if you show interest in joining). With any luck, you will get a trainer who has dealt with people in your shoes. Also, a stress test might not be a bad idea. It’s always rough with chest pain and anxiety because it could be in your head and it could also be something very serious.

    My anxiety ALWAYS manifests itself in the form of “omg, I’m having a heart attack” (with other symptoms). My father suffers from the same thing. A few years ago he actually had a heart attack. He told me he NEVER ‘thinks’ he is having a heart attack anymore. He said if you are having one, it isn’t a matter of “I think I am.” So, while it’s important to listen to your body, it’s also important to keep it in perspective.

  49. Adam says

    I stopped exercising about a year and a half ago. I had noticed a definite connection between my generalized anxiety and social anxiety and how much I exercised. But it was not the connection that all the docs/articles tell you to expect. So I finally stopped exercise altogether, and my anxiety is probably 80% better. I used to have anxiety issues in all sorts of random situations. Gone. It’s very odd. But glad to see this article, and know that I’m not alone. I have found that I am able to do yoga, but that’s about it. What I would really love to know is physiologically what is going on. I know the above post touched on that, but why am I shaky when I’m exercising (as in, all the time I’m slightly shaky if I am involved in any sort of exercise routine), but almost never if I keep away from exercise. Ironically, I’m one of those people who loved to put on the head phones and use the gym as my 45 min of alone time. But I just can’t sacrifice the other 23 hours of the day. Oh, and lastly, sleep. I sleep much better when I’m NOT exercising. Once again, contrary to common medical wisdom…

  50. Sarah says

    The missing piece in this post, and the one that I’ve noticed people in the comments asking about is the fact that cortisol levels are shown to increase after 20 mins of exercising! My holistic nutritionist friend first told me this and you can research it anywhere on the web. Exercising does induce anxiety because of the rising cortisol levels. It makes sense then that people who are already riddled with anxiety and a propensity for it, will be affected. Today was the perfect example…I have GAD and 2 days ago I decided to try running again after months of giving it up because it would always leave me in a state of heightened anxiety for the rest of the day. So thinking that maybe it’ll be different this time, maybe my body is somehow “stronger” now, or maybe it was all in my head…I go running. Same thing: shortness of breath all day and evening, uneasiness, the constant vague hum of anxiousness that hangs over me. So I make the connection. But today, I wanna experiment again just to be sure. Maybe I ran too fast? So I slow my running down and go for 30 mins while trying to breathe more from my belly. Same anxiety symptoms for the whole day although a little less intense. So I’m concluding that the 30 mins of exercise must be raising my cortisol levels and it’s harder for me to relax afterwards. So I will stick to yoga and pilates and other more calming strength exercises – running I just cant do! It aggravates my Vata bodytype (look up ayurvedic body types, find out which one you are and find out how to balance it through lifestyle and diet!)

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