Why exercise feels dangerous to you

Vigorous exercise: some love it, some hate it.
The heart beating, the sweating, the quick breathing – it can remind us too much of trauma.
If you feel a natural aversion towards fast-paced exercise, it might be because you are faced with unprocessed emotions. How to get out of it, and how do we still keep moving?

Hunter-gatherers used to walk up to 25km a day.
I can barely get my 10’000 steps in.

All this might be true if you have encountered trauma or have auto-immune illnesses.
Exercising with high intensity might throw you into a panic attack.
It might seem impossible to build up muscle strength at first, and hence stay healthy long-term.
Not that there’s anything wrong with gentle exercise such as yoga, tai chi or qi kong.

When an active body reminds us of being harmed,
our mental health will suffer from not moving.
Even positive stress will give us a panic attack!

The key is to slowly ease into structure physical exercise via titration (explained here).
First we start with the basics of regulating our nervous systems and restoring capacity for stress. Nobody can lift their own body weight right away, and similarly, we must practice being out of breath.
And when we are in our stress physiology which is mimicking an anxiety response, can we focus on our environment?
When our heart rate raises, even if it resembles a fear response (mentally and biologically), do we know we are safe?

Honestly, sports was never “fun” to me.
Even as a child, anything competitive and vigorous made me nervous.

I enjoy hiking, walking, even yoga when I don’t get bored too quickly.
People with chronic fatigue, disassociation and dysregulation will shy away from any exertion, whereas “normal” people might be drawn to it.
This post was inspired by Irene Lyon’s recent Facebook Q&A, so give it a lesson if you want more details from a nervous system expert!

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