Do Fear, Anxiety or Panic Keep You From Walking?

Walking Through a Dark Tunnel

Thorsten Henn / Cultura / Getty Images

Are you afraid to go walking? If anxiety, fear or panic disorder is keeping you from walking outdoors or going to the gym, you are not getting the benefits of walking.

You Are Not Alone in Feeling Fear and Anxiety

Everyone is afraid of something, be it fear itself. Fear is what makes us avoid dangerous situations. But if fear is keeping you from walking or keeping you from doing what you want to do, you have a fear or anxiety problem.

Common Fears That Can Keep You From Walking

  • Attack or assault, mugging, rape
  • Darkness—especially when the only convenient time for you to walk is early morning or late at night.
  • Traffic and lack of safe street crossings, sidewalks, and paths for pedestrians.
  • Crowds
  • Insects
  • Fear of worsening a medical condition or suffering a heart attack, stroke, blood sugar crisis, etc.
  • Fear of being alone when walking without a partner
  • Don't want people looking at your body while walking on the street or on the treadmill at the gym.
  • Fear that you look silly when racewalking or powerwalking

All Fears Are Real to the Sufferer

If you have a fear or know someone who does, understand that fear is very real, and it takes time and conditioning to relieve the anxiety associated with the fear. Simple reassurances are not enough.

Tactics to Address Common Fears and Anxiety 

  • Talk to Friends: If fear is causing you to miss out on activities you wish to participate in, admit that you have a problem and brainstorm possible solutions with friends.
  • Join a Walking Group or Walking Club: You don't have to walk alone, and there is safety in numbers.
  • Choose Safe Routes: Select your routes and walking times to avoid dangerous situations. Walk in daylight hours and on paths frequented by other walkers and runners.
  • Embrace Your Body the Way It Is: Give yourself permission to look however you look — be it too fat, too skinny, or walking in a unique style. You are doing what is good for your body and life. Any negative comments come from those who don't reap those benefits. I have found that other walkers and runners are very supportive of people with all body shapes and sizes and walking styles. You will be applauded especially if you are older, younger, overweight or racewalking.
  • Learn Self Defense and How to Avoid Attacks: Learn basic self-defense techniques and attack aversion strategies. 
  • Talk to Your Doctor About Health Conditions: Discuss your exercise plans fully with your medical care provider to learn what precautions you should take, how far and how fast you should go, and any special considerations.
  • Spiritual and Philosophical Tactics: Review Bible verses, Hindu philosophy and motivational quotes on overcoming fear.

Fear, Anxiety, and Panic Disorders

If your fears are excessive and are keeping you from leading a full life, you may want to consult a medical professional to see if you have an anxiety condition.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: As many as 13% of people have a lifetime prevalence of social anxiety symptoms, including a fear of being watched and judged in public.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: If you worry excessively about everything and have no control over your anxiety, you may have this disorder.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: It's not just for war veterans. Anyone exposed to a traumatic event may experience PTSD.
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia

Take steps to address your fear and anxiety so you can enjoy healthy exercise and walking.

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  1. Richards, T. What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symptoms, Treatment, Prevalence, Medications, Insight, Prognosis. Social Anxiety Association. Published online, no date.