Getting regular physical exercise for panic disorder

Many people with panic disorder stop exercising because they fear that it will cause a panic attack. But regular aerobic exercise is important and can help you manage stress and anxiety better.

Always begin an exercise program slowly and increase the amount you exercise gradually.

  • Do not overtire yourself. Start with simple activities such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or jogging.
  • Always warm up your muscles for 5 minutes with easy exercise such as walking and slowly moving your arms and legs.
  • Use the talk-sing test to see whether you are exercising at a pace that is right for you. If you can talk while you are exercising, you are doing fine. If you can sing while you are exercising, you can exercise a little faster or harder. If you are not able to talk while you are exercising, you probably are exercising too hard. Slow down a bit.
  • Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes after you exercise. It is important to do some stretching exercises after cooldown.
  • Drink water after exercising. Drink eight 8 fl oz (237 mL) glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid exercising 3 to 4 hours before bedtime so that you do not have problems falling asleep.

Build up your exercise program bit by bit. Aim for at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise.1 It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Stop exercising if you have severe pain or severe problems breathing, and discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Remember that it takes time to build up to a full exercise program. Proceed at a pace that is comfortable for you. It may be helpful to exercise with a partner or join an exercise group or club.

For more information, see the topic Fitness.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online:

Last Updated: September 16, 2008

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