Running with Angie

Running with Angie

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By: Rebecca Blake

For many, running is a form of self-inflicted torture, but for Angie Ryan, it’s a form of relief from stress and anxiety.  

“When I run it’s therapeutic,” said Ryan.  

Ryan, 41, is an active woman. She works as an early-childhood educator, is a mom to a beautiful daughter and she’s been regularly exercising 10 years for her anxiety.  

Her anxiety began when she was a child.  “To be honest, I didn’t do anything with my anxiety. I didn’t really know I had anxiety,” said Ryan.  

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Ryan, then aged 5, was diagnosed with a ‘bad belly’. “I knew there was something wrong but, there wasn’t a lot of information about anxiety.”  

Those feelings of stress followed Ryan into her early 20s. She thought getting out and spending more time with friends she would feel better. However, the feelings didn’t go away.  

“I went to the doctor and I said, ‘I’m emotional all the time and I can’t get out of bed’. That was my first realization that something was wrong.”   

Feeling alone in the world, 20-year old Ryan began to experience panic attacks.  She didn’t know that they were panic attacks.  

“I didn’t know at the time it was a panic attack. I knew that they would go away so I’d wait. That was my coping mechanism,” said Ryan.  

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Her anxiety started to change when she began trying for her daughter Grace. “I was doing everything at that time to ensure that my body was healthy. I was eating the right food, drinking water and exercising,” said Ryan. “I think during my pregnancy was the best I ever felt.”  

While pregnant with her daughter, Ryan walked every day. She was even out for stroll the morning she went into labor. Ryan says that going to the gym and keeping her body in motion reduced the stress of pregnancy. 

“I realized I didn’t have a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy. Which was something hadn’t experienced before. I’ve had anxiety ever since I was a little girl.”  

“The time that I spent for myself, for my running and my fitness, those are the time when I felt like I shut everything off and focus on myself.” 

 A paper published in in 1979 states the regular use of acute physical activity can help reduce anxiety.  

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“The chief psychological benefit of physical activity then would be seen not as its ability to reduce tension but rather as its ability to maintain a desired tension state or prevent an elevated state of anxiety.” States the article.  

What this means is that exercise won’t reduce tension, but rather keep you in a desired state of tension and can also prevent anxiety. 

In more recent times, the NCBI published a paper called Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis. The paper says that physical activity is used as a treatment for a select group. However, due to the lack of research and testing, there are not definitive conclusions about exercises as an effective treatment for anxiety.  

In the discussions section, the article says, “In summary, findings from the present review suggest that exercise could be a useful, affordable, accessible treatment for anxiety. However, there appears to be a paucity of data from well-designed RCTs, and the methodological limitations in the existing trials of exercise preclude drawing definitive conclusions about its effectiveness.”  

For Ryan, whose tried holistic healing, therapy and meditation, exercise is an incredibly effective tool.   

“The time that I spent for myself, for my running and my fitness, those are the time when I felt like I shut everything off and focus on myself.”  

“Anxiety and depression are very unique to treat because peoples’ bodies are very unique”

Tara Thomas, a counselor for College of the North Atlantic, loves to run. 

“For myself, running is like a miracle drug.” 

Thomas suggests,  “I always, always recommend exercise because it has so many benefits for your health as well as your mental health has so many benefits for your health as well as your mental health.”

However, exercise isn’t enough for some people, according to Thoams. “It all depends on the person. Anxiety and depression are very unique to treat because peoples’ bodies are very unique.”

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