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Everyone responds to stress in their own way. What stresses me out might not be worrisome to you at all. And the other way around. But no matter how you react to stress, the fact is it’s an inevitable part of our everyday lives. The good news is there are simple steps that you can take to relieve that stress. One of the ways is with the help of physical activity. But how does exercise reduce stress? Below, we’ll dig into the science behind it.
4 Ways How Exercise Reduces Stress
1. Increases the Production of Endorphins
Physical activity helps to increase the production of your body’s natural painkillers, which are called endorphins. They are neurotransmitters that send blissful, feel-good signals to your brain. It’s what gives an energized and euphoric feeling after a good workout. They are also responsible for that “runner’s high”.
However, endorphins are not the only neurotransmitters that are released during exercise. Additionally, physical activity releases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. All these brain chemicals work to regulate your mood.
The increase of serotonin levels gives you an overall sense of well-being. On top of that, it improves your appetite and sleep cycles.
At the same time, exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. So you get an improvement in mood and good stress relief.
People who regularly workout are often more enthusiastic, more relaxed and less tense.
2. It Promotes Meditation
Exercise is also a great way to get your mind off your worries. As you run, make laps in the pool or lift weights, you concentrate on just one task. You focus on the muscle movements during the exercise. This helps to divert the negative thoughts of the day and direct all your attention to how your muscles move, how your body feels and how your lungs are getting air. As a result, at the end of the workout, you’ll have the same sense of clarity and renewed energy as after a session of meditation.
According to research, the best improvements come from rhythmic, aerobic exercises that involve large muscle groups at low or moderate intensity. For example, jogging, swimming and cycling are some of the most effective types of exercise that get you into a good meditative state of mind.
So allow your mind to steer away from the chaos of the day by reconnecting with your body and your breath, just like in meditation.
3. Improves Self Confidence
As your waistline shrinks and your muscle mass and stamina increases, you’ll also feel more pride and self-confidence. Improvements in body-image, self-esteem and self-confidence have been shown to help in easing stress levels.
Your renewed energy will also help you succeed in different other tasks during your daily life and you’ll be able to achieve other important lifestyle goals.
4. Helps to Handle Stress
Exercise also acts as a stress buffer. It raises your physical and mental stress threshold. Regular exercise promotes the production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, known as BDNF. It’s a protein that helps to stimulate and control neurogenesis. This increases brain plasticity and encourages the growth of new neurons, which helps to combat chronic cortisol exposure. As a result, it’s easier for your brain to deal with stress.
Physical activity also makes you more efficient and energetic, so that when you face any stress, you don’t feel as overwhelmed.
Regular exercise also promotes health in different other ways. And better health may indirectly moderate your stress levels. With improved physical wellness, you’ll just have less to stress about.
Other benefits of exercise that translate to stress relief include mood-boosting social interactions or the opposite, getting away from it all to work out in solitude.
What Types of Exercise Help With Stress?
Almost any exercise and any amount of it is good for relieving stress, anxiety and depression. You don’t necessarily need to run a marathon to experience the stress relief. However, some types of physical activity may be more effective than others.
Aerobic exercise is considered to be the most effective at reducing stress levels. It increases your heart rate, which, in turn, increases circulation to your brain and promotes balanced brain chemistry.
For example, consider trying the following aerobic exercise:
- playing tennis
- playing basketball
You can start small. Even 10 minutes of regular aerobic exercise will give you benefits. The key is to maintain a regular routine. And as you build up your stamina and strength, you can gradually increase the time. It’s encouraged that adults get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week with a combination of aerobic exercise and muscle training.
By doing regular exercise, you’ll boost your mood and energy, strengthen your muscles, lungs and heart. If you regularly workout, you’ll also not only reduce your stress levels but will also increase your ability to cope with any stress you’ll face in the future.