The physical benefits of exercise — improving physical condition and fighting disease — have long been established and physicians always encourage staying physically active.
Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, as well as enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more energy in your step daily. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. It pumps up yourendorphins. Physical activity may help increase the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.
Physical activity can also help take your mind off your worries. The repetitive motions involved in exercise promote a focus on your body, rather than your mind. By concentrating on the rhythm of your movements, you experience many of the same benefits of meditation while working out. Focusing on a single physical task can produce a sense of energy and optimism. This focus can help provide calmness and clarity.
Some people notice an improvement in their mood immediately after a workout.
Those feelings don’t end there, but generally become cumulative over time. You are highly likely going to notice increased feelings of well-being as you stay committed to a consistent exercise routine.
Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people which is incredibly important.
If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. It can also help with recovery from mental health issues, as well as improve your sleep, which is essential in many different ways.
It pumps up your endorphins.
Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, any aerobic activity, such as a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike, can contribute to this same feeling.
It reduces negative effects of stress.
Exercise can provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects. This can also lead to positive effects in your body — including your cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems — by helping protect your body from harmful effects of stress.
It’s meditation in motion.
After a fast-paced game of racquetball, a long walk or run, or several laps in the pool, you may often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.
As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may discover that this focus on a single task – and the resulting energy and optimism – can help you stay calm, clear and focused regarding your everyday routine.
It improves your mood.
Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your mood, help you relax, and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life which is vital for easing stress.
If your primary goal is to reduce stress in your life, your specific goals might include committing to walking during your lunch hour twice a week. Perhaps following an online fitness video suits your lifestyle better. If needed, ask a friend or find a babysitter to watch your children so that you can attend a fitness class or go swimming.
Find a friend.
Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Try making plans to meet friends for walks or workouts. Working out with a friend, colleague or family member often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts. Friends and family can make exercising more fun and make it feel more of a social occasion.
Change your routine.
If you have always run in a competitive style, consider other options that may help with stress reduction, such as Pilates or yoga classes. As an added bonus, these kinder, gentler workouts may enhance your mental and emotional calmness while also lessens your stress.
Any form of exercise can lead to these effects. Move in whatever way feels good or makes you feel good about yourself. That is pivotal. Be aware that you are not only strengthening your heart and muscles, you are also increasing your capacity to experience happiness and connection.
All forms of exercise can increase your fitness and decrease your stress. However, it is vitally important to choose an activity that you enjoy rather than endure. Experience a variety of activities until you find one (or more) you are comfortable with and want to engage with. When you are having fun, you will be more likely to continue with your workout routine and feel motivated.
Exercise builds on itself, so the effects are cumulative. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Not only that but your overall stress response seems to decrease which is undoubtedly motivating.
How you view physical activity in your life is crucial. Do not think of exercise as just another task to tick off on your to-do list. Find an activity you enjoy — whether it is an active tennis match or a meditative stroll to a local park and back — and make it part of your regular routine. Whichever form of physical activity you choose, it can help you unwind. It will become an integral part of your approach to easing stress.
The focal point of easing stress and anxiety is to find a physical activity that works for you and your lifestyle. The reward will be less tension and more calmness in all areas of our lives.