When Minor Health Worries Cast Big Shadows

19 September, 2012

Who hasn't overreacted to utterly common problems? But some people are especially prone to health fears. One antidote? Exercise. Sweaty workouts shrink health worries. You shouldn’t ignore persistent or sudden symptoms, of course. But if rationally you know you're fine, yet you just can't let go of nagging fears, go for a jog, swim, or hike.

A workout won't help every case of anxiety. Some people need more structured treatment, such as cognitive behavior therapy, or even medication.

And not all physical symptoms should be ignored. If you have persistent unexplained symptoms, or sudden or severe symptoms, see your doctor for diagnosis.

But in the absence of an underlying illness, going for a run or swimming some laps is a pretty cost-effective way to deal with anxiety. And it may be just the ticket if you fall into a segment of the population (up to 20 percent) that suffers from health anxiety, an abnormal obsession with health. The exertion will help calm you when there's nothing to fear but fear itself. And you might rest easier knowing that you're doing something good for your body.

SOURCES: Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity. Broman-Fulks, J. J., Berman, M. E., Rabian, B. A., Webster, M. J., Behaviour Research and Therapy 2004 Feb;42(2):125-136.

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