How Group Workouts Can Spike Your Anxiety

Research shows that exercise reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, however for some; it triggers a spike in anxiety levels. While the general perception of exercise is that it helps to calm the nerves and reduce tension from the body, the reverse is the case in some people. Exercise and anxiety attacks have many similarities as they both increase the heart rate, respiratory rate, perspiration, and pump more adrenaline into your body. Some people are particularly susceptible to increased anxiety during exercise. Why does this happen? If you have been experiencing this type of anxiety, the following might explain why you feel that way:


Competition / Feeling of Failure

One of the reasons why group workouts are popular is to force you to challenge yourself to match the performance of your group members. However, this can result in excessive pressure on your mind and body. The feeling of competition and the fear of failure can induce a panic attack. And the conditions of an anxiety attack such as increased breathing and perspiration are already present when you are exercising. It helps if you don’t push yourself too hard during group workouts to avert an anxiety attack. Working out in a less intimidating environment can also help reduce anxiety during your group workouts.


Cortisol Release

Research shows that high levels of cortisol can increase the occurrence of anxiety. Cortisol is a hormone released by the body when it is experiencing stress. High-intensity exercises induce the body to secrete cortisol, and this can cause anxiety. The hormone helps manage blood glucose levels and insulin responsiveness. However, high levels of cortisol over a prolonged period can induce fat storage, especially in the belly area, increase insulin insensitivity, and weaken the immune response, as well as increasing the occurrence of anxiety, especially among young adults who are predisposed to anxiety.



Lack of confidence is one of the reasons why people suffer from anxiety. If you find your confidence levels plummeting when you are in a group, this may heighten the chances of an anxiety attack during a group exercise. One way to boost your confidence levels is to stop judging yourself. Don’t look down on yourself no matter how slow your success. You may also boost your confidence levels by working out with people who are close to your fitness level so that you don’t feel intimated.


Stress Caused by Different Stimulus

Your workout-induced anxiety might also be due to stress from a non-workout stimulus. Sometimes, working out after having a hard day at work could raise your stress levels to unhealthy levels. Sleep deprivation, unhealthy lifestyle and toxic relationships can also raise your stress levels and increase the occurrence of anxiety while working out in a group.


Mentally Exhausted

Mental exhaustion is a prime cause of anxiety. Mental fatigue often stems from trying to avoid thinking about something. However, this act also requires considerable mental power as your brain is constantly in a battle to prevent the thought from popping into your mind. Eventually, your efforts to stop the thoughts may backfire, and the mere feeling of being overpowered can trigger an anxiety attack.


Group workouts are supposed to be fun and help you achieve your fitness goals faster. However, they can also induce anxiety in some people. This post covers some of the reasons why this happens, and I hope it helps you get more out of your group workouts in the future.