10 Surprising Ways Exercise Relieves Stress

By:    Published: February 14, 2012

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Most people will agree that they experience some level of stress as a part of their daily lives. While it may not be possible to escape all of the sources of stress from day-to-day activities, it is possible to manage stress using stress management techniques. (If you’re looking for particular techniques for stress relief, read 9 Stress Relieving Techniques For Daily Comfort.)

While some stress management techniques can be costly or time consuming, adding a simple exercise program to your routine often works well for dealing with the stresses of everyday life and can be tailored to your busy schedule. If exercise is performed at home, it has the added bonus of not costing you a thing. There are many ways in which you can exercise, and there are many ways in which that exercise can help to relieve stress. Check out some of the ways exercise helps with stress, below:

1. Boosts Endorphins

Endorphins are natural hormones that are released by your body after a period of high-energy exercise. When endorphins are released throughout your body, you may experience a feeling of elation, sometimes described as a “high”. Endorphins are a naturally-released painkiller that gives your body an overall sense of happiness and a general good feeling. Endorphins are usually at their peak about one hour after you’ve finished exercising.

2. Lowers Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the hormones that are released throughout your body when you are experiencing stress. If your body does not utilize hormones such as cortisol properly, they can produce feelings of irritability and may eventually even put you at risk for stress related illnesses. Exercising helps the body to absorb cortisol, therefore lowering cortisol levels, which leads to a reduction in stress symptoms.

3. Provides An Outlet For Frustration

Unmanaged stress that is not properly controlled can lead to a build-up of frustration. When a person does not have an outlet in which to release frustration, it can become pent up within the body, which can lead to a host of mental and emotional symptoms. Left unchecked, frustration that builds up can result in:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Phobias
  • Paranoia
  • Other mental or emotional disorders

Exercise can be an outlet that is used to release tensions and frustration. By simply engaging in some form of physical activity on a regular basis, your body will learn to release tension in muscles, as well as help you burn off negative emotions that can lead to frustration.

4. Calms The Mind

After a stressful day at work or dealing with whatever daily stressors are part of your life, exercise can be an effective way to clear your head. By taking a brisk walk or going for a run in the park, you’ll be surprised to see how the simple change of scenery coupled with a bit of exercise can help to calm your mind. Even a simple run on a treadmill can do wonders for calming your mind and relieving stress, as the rhythmic, repetitiveness of running on a treadmill can help you focus your thoughts and free your mind.

5. Elevates Mood

Regular exercise can help to downgrade feelings of anger, fear and worry while the release of endorphins helps to elevate your overall mood. Although there is not much research available on the subject, it seems as though engaging in prolonged periods of moderate exercise can lead to an overall sense of contentment in the individual, thus elevating the mood. Any form of exercise that is performed on a regular basis is believed to be able to help you relax and ease your stress.

6. Fights Depression

Research shows that people who engage in regular exercise tend to have lower rates of depression. Lower rates of depression are due, in part, to those elevated endorphin levels. Endorphins are a hormone that is naturally released by the body and can result in an overall happy, feel-good feeling. Additionally, exercise can help to boost self-esteem and self-perception by improving your appearance, which may then lead to lower levels of depression.

7. Reduces Anxiety

People who are constantly stressed can often experience increased feelings of anger, fear or phobias. This is in large part due to hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine. When the body experiences continuous stress, these chemical hormones are released in the body where they continue to circulate at all times. If they are not burned up through exercise, those hormones can have a negative effect on your mood by producing ill feelings and anxiety. Through exercise, the body can use up these chemicals and produce endorphins, which will give the body an elated feeling, thus leading to a reduction in anxiety.

8. Encourages Social Interaction

Individuals who engage in exercise, whether running in the park or going to work out at the gym, have an opportunity to meet people who have a similar interest to them. Talking with others may help you to improve your mood and decrease your stress levels by simply becoming more socially involved. Additionally, finding someone to work out with may give you that added motivation that you need to stick to a workout routine. People who know that another person is expecting and relying on them are generally more likely to show up to their workout session and less likely to skip the gym.

9. Improves Sleep

Research shows that engaging in regular exercise can help to improve your sleeping habits. If you suffer from difficulty sleeping at night, you may have noticed the development of a negative sleep cycle pattern; you cannot sleep so you have a lack of energy and a heightened sense of anxiety. You can’t focus and you are exhausted, and the cycle continues from there. When the body’s internal clock is disrupted and sleep patterns are thrown out of balance, stress levels can begin to rise. Exercise can help you to change this pattern of behavior, making you feel less stressed and more in control of your life.

10. Boosts Self-Confidence

Engaging in regular exercise will tone your body, build up muscle and help you to lose weight. When you look good, you feel good, and that feeling will definitely give your self-confidence a boost. If you are stressed over your appearance or because of a weight gain, exercise can be all that is needed to help you improve your self-esteem. Not only will exercise help to boost self-confidence, but it will make your body healthier overall.

We all know that a daily dose of exercise is healthy, but many of us feel too busy and stressed to consider fitting an exercise routine into our lives. Engaging in regular exercise not only has health benefits, but also is a healthy way to manage day to day stress. Exercise is a low cost, natural stress management technique that has a variety of both physical and mental benefits. If you are in good health you can start exercising today, if you have underlying medical conditions or are unsure, speak to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

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