COOPER CITY — Regular exercise goes a long way in preventing some deadly diseases. But it can also greatly improve our mental health and emotional well-being.

A new study by Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont, shows that people who regularly work out are less likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, and depression, in general.

“A severe panic attack is a frightening experience which can happen to otherwise healthy individuals,” says Jim Sayih, a personal trainer at 911 CrossFit in Cooper City. Nearly 19 million adult Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder, he says. “They can strike anywhere, at any time, making sufferers feel very ill. That’s why it is so important to find ways to prevent these attacks from happening.”

The new study – as well as previous research done in this area — indicates that, in many cases, high levels of physical activity can work as well as antidepressant drugs in preventing panic disorders.

“It’s a known fact that physical fitness improves our mood and reduces anxiety,” Sayih notes. “It also improves blood flow to the brain, releases ‘feel-good’

chemicals and hormones, increases energy, lowers the stress level, helps gain confidence, and distracts from worries and negative thoughts that feed anxiety.”

Sayih adds that people often get panic attacks because they feel they are not in control of their environment. “That’s where exercise is useful; it puts us in control of our bodies and our health,” he says.

For best results, Sayih suggests using a combination of the following workouts:

Breathing: Many people have difficulty breathing during an anxiety attack – or feel like they are choking – so inhaling and exhaling exercises that will relax them could be incorporated into the workout program.

Stretching: It loosens muscles that tighten and contract during stressful situations.

Strength training: A Harvard University study found that 10 weeks of resistance training was beneficial in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“Basically, any exercise that is good for your overall physical health is also good for your mental and emotional balance,” Sayih says. “If you feel you are in control of your body and are doing something positive for your health, then you are certainly on the right track.”

This feature was provided by 911 CrossFit in Cooper City. Jim Sayih may be reached at 954-438-4744 or