We know that exercise is a stress buster. But can it help bring relief in extreme cases, such as the anxiety caused by the recent terrorist attacks? "Even within the first days of such an incident, physical activity can help significantly," says Elizabeth K. Carll, Ph.D., a Huntington, N.Y., psychologist who served as a stress and trauma expert after the first World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombings, the TWA flight 800 crash and the recent disasters in New York City and outside Washington, D.C. Carll recommends trying to maintain normal eating, sleeping and exercise routines after such an event. But exercise, she says, has additional benefits because it promotes increases in the brain's production of neurochemicals related to stress reduction. "The activity doesn't have to be strenuous," Carll says, "just something like a 30-minute walk that gets the blood flowing and increases oxygen flow to your brain." Besides, being sedentary in front of the TV and constantly reliving the trauma does nothing to help you deal with stress, physically or psychologically.
Especially for people who are coping with grief or who tend toward depression and anxiety, recovery can be a lengthy process; according to Carll, developing an exercise program can be a good long-term coping mechanism for these individuals.