At some point in life everyone experiences stress and its negative impacts on the body. A few of them can be physical (headaches, tense muscles, etc.) or mental (depression, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, etc.). With the negative effects associated with it, it is advisable to combat stress early. Although it is quite impossible to eliminate stress completely, it can be properly managed. Today, we would explore the various ways how exercise can relieve stress and help you invigorate your lifestyle.
There are many ways to cope with stress and how we cope with stress varies from individual to individual, but a general way that has been proven to work is by physically exercising.
How Exercise Can Relieve Stress?
Exercise helps you cope with stress by increasing your blood and oxygen flow to your brain. It forces your mind to focus on the exercise (the present moment), triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. As a result, it brightens your mood, increases confidence in your image, and self-esteem.
When people go through stress, a chain of events is set off which might later lead to a decrease of energy, high blood pressure, and increased heart rate.
But how does it works,
When the body perceives we are being stressed, it triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol to naturally defend our body, the hormones, in turn, raise our blood pressure and increases the heart rate which might harm our health in the long run.
Exercise helps increase blood flow
Firstly, it should be noted that a good workout stimulates the proper flow of blood to the heart, brain, and every other part of the body. Aerobics also increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and this has been proven to have a relaxing effect.
Rebounding for example is a form of aerobic exercise. But I want you to think of what happens when you are jumping up and down during a session of just 10 minutes. All your body and cells get oxygenated and as a result, your body experiments an increase of blood flow in the whole body.
Proper blood and oxygen flow to the brain boosts positive thinking and that generally increases the overall well-being of anyone who exercises.
I can tell you by experience, aerobics movements are powerful to help you relieve stress almost immediately.
But there is even more,
Exercise triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin
After a long run, runners often experience this feeling of euphoria and optimism, this feeling is due to the release of endorphins in the brain. The feeling is named “runner’s high”, although not only runners feel it. After an intense workout, the brain often triggers the release of the feel-good hormones (as some people call it).
Endorphin, which has a similar effect to morphine, relaxes the brain, makes thinking easier, and generally increases the way you feel about yourself.
The euphoric feeling that comes after exercising has been said to help reduce the level of stress. Aerobics, weight-lifting, running, jumping, jogging, or any other exercise can trigger the release of endorphins and so exercising is advisable and recommended by many health specialists worldwide.
An exercise is a form of meditation in motion
Meditation has been linked to helping reduce stress levels but not everyone has the ability to focus as master gurus can. The mindfulness required for meditation sure discourages some people from meditating but there is another way: exercising.
While exercising, the mind focuses on the present activity and this form of focus is a kind of meditation in motion.
The meditation in motion increases mindfulness which in turn reduces the level of stress. Any form of exercise can serve as meditation in motion.
Exercise Improves Your Sleep and Mood
Exercising has been noted to help relax, lower symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improves the general mood. Exercise also helps improve sleep which is often disrupted by stress.
In fact, several studies have concluded that exercise can boost emotional mood and help with anxiety and depression symptoms. And the result is significantly related to the release of endorphins while exercising.
Exercise Boost Your Confidence
Exercises have been reported to boost self-image by those who work out regularly. Having the body of your choice would improve your self-confidence and make you connect with people easily; this makes achieving your goals easier.
Additional Benefits of Exercise
Apart from the benefits mentioned above, exercising has various other rewards and a few of them are below.
- Exercises are generally known to strengthen muscles and bones. In fact, some people exercise mainly for this purpose.
- Exercise boosts the level of good cholesterol in the body.
- Exercises have been noted to strengthen immunity and decrease the risk of illness and infections.
Researches and Proofs
As stressed earlier, stress can be managed although it can be quite impossible to eliminate. According to an online survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) on stress and anxiety disorders, 14 per cent of people make use of exercise to cope with stress. Others reported talking to family and friends (18 per cent); some sleeping (17 per cent); watching movies (14 per cent); eating (14 per cent); some said they listen to music (13 per cent).
While there are many coping mechanisms, exercise is the one most recommended by health care professionals. And among the ADAA poll takers who exercise, a healthy percentage is already on the right track: walking (29 per cent), running (20 per cent), and yoga (11 per cent) are their preferred strategies.
How much exercise do you need?
You should exercise almost every day but that doesn’t mean you should run a marathon. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. They suggest breaking the exercise down by tackling 30-minute workout sessions at least five times a week.
If you are busy and cannot fit in a 30-minute workout session, three 10-minute workouts have been shown to work almost as well as 30 minutes at once. But Add a little strength training and stretching so you have a balanced program for health and stress reduction.
With just 15 minutes of fast walking has been shown to help lower the stress levels. So when feeling fatigue or having too much stress after work, do not downplay its effectiveness, go out and test it yourself. That’s what I did and still do.
Some exercises and how they help relieve stress
Various, if not all, exercises can help ease your stress level. There are various ways you can meet your exercise target, but, what type of physical activity should you choose?
Some people go for moderate aerobic exercise and that has increased the popularity of the elliptical trainers while some choose strength building and opt for resistance bands.
When choosing exercises, you should try to choose an exercise that derives pleasure for you. Not doing an exercise that is fun for you makes the activity look like a difficult task and this might have the opposite effect of reducing stress. I personally love jumping and jogging on my mini trampoline and find it to be most effective for stress relieve.
If you choose to engage in aerobics. Some moderate aerobics you can engage in are:
- Jogging or Jogging in Place
- Jumping on a rebounder
- Breathing exercises such as Yoga or Tai chi
- Playing squash
- Zumba dance, or dancing among others
If weight-lifting is what does it for you, consider the use of resistance bands for a full body workout or consider getting weights.
Even some simple activities like walking, gardening, or using stairs rather than elevators can give emotional boosts.
You don’t need to be a fitness freak or an elite athlete to experience stress relief from exercise. Any kind of exercise can be really helpful especially if is one that enjoy.
Keep in mind that exercises have other additional benefits asides stress relief. You don’t necessarily need to workout at the gym, in fact for some people working out at home can even be more beneficial since it will allow you to save some time and money.
Working out for at least 30 minutes daily can go a long way in reducing stress level. And lastly, when choosing exercises to engage in, I truly advise you to choose the one or ones you find fun.
Anxiety and Depression association of America – Physical Activity Reduces Stress
American Heart Association – Recommendations for Physical Activity
US National Library of Medicine – Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172294/
US National Library of Medicine – Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/
Medical News Today – What is depression and what can I do about it? – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8933