Anger is a normal, healthy emotion that everyone experiences at some time. Underlying emotions, such as sadness, fear, or guilt, may also be expressed as anger. During times of stress, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may experience anger more often than is typical.
Anger becomes problematic when it becomes unmanageable. Some people exercise to manage their emotions and frustrations.
Researchers have found that aerobic exercise, in particular, can help reduce anxiety, depression, and hostility.1 Some research even suggests that a short bout of exercise may help to prevent an angry mood.2
Exercise is a great solution in theory, but some people may have difficulty giving their energy to a workout when anger is consuming them. If you find yourself sidetracked by an angry mood, frustration, or outrage, consider one of these workouts to help manage the emotion.
The Effects of Anger on the Body
Researchers define anger as an emotional state that consists of feelings that vary in intensity from mild irritation or annoyance to intense fury.3 There are two types of anger:
- Constructive Anger: Anger that can help you to solve problems and can have a protective component.
- Destructive Anger: Anger used to justify somebody’s feelings or to intensify somebody’s state of anger.3
Even though anger can be a healthy emotion, it can take a toll on the body. In fact, those who practice Buddhism refer to anger as one of the three poisons of the mind (along with greed and foolishness).3
For instance, through its impact on the sympathetic nervous system, anger has been shown to have a positive association with atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease. And negative emotions, including anger, have also been included as a causal factor for bulimic behavior. Anger has been associated with developing type 2 diabetes and with an increased risk of road accidents.3
On the other hand, exercise has been associated with a decreased risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Exercise has also been shown to increase one’s emotional resilience to acute stress.4 So when you experience anger, physical exercise may be a positive way to relieve some tension.
Types of Workouts to Manage Anger
There are different ways to approach movement when you are cross or annoyed.
- Some people might prefer to release their anger with explosive movements, such as boxing, circuit training, or dancing.
- Others might prefer to calm their breathing and reduce their heart rate with mind-body exercises, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation.
- Some may even prefer a combination of both, such as hiking in nature.
It may also be the case that what works on one occasion is less effective during another event. So try to be open-minded and try different exercises to calm your mood.
Keep in mind that the goal with exercise isn’t necessarily to eliminate anger. Anger is natural and can be healthy. Exercise simply gives you an outlet for healthy expression and management.
Sweat It Out
Since aerobic activity has specifically been called out by researchers as a way to reduce anger expression in both children5 and adults1, you might want to get your sweat on to calm your nerves. Activities like individual rowing6 and treadmill running have been associated with lowered anger, dejection, and anxiety.7
You might want to try one of these workouts the next time you need to release frustration:
- 3 Rowing Workouts to Mix Up Your Routine
- 4 Quick and Effective Treadmill Workouts
- 30 Minute Treadmill Workout
- Hill Workouts on the Treadmill Using Incline
You might also want to try to redirect your focus. The following types of workouts, in particular, help you to concentrate on various movement challenges so that your focus may be directed away from the source of your anger, at least temporarily.
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