Feeling a little stressed lately?
In today’s world, stress and anxiety are par for the course. We all feel stress and anxiety from time to time. And that’s ok. The key is managing it and not letting it take you away from yourself and your goals.
Exercise is good for your mind and your body, specifically as a very effective form of stress management. That’s right, exercise will not only help you feel stronger physically, but also mentally.
This all begins in your brain, but the effects will travel throughout our whole body!
Chemical Connections – It all begins with the chemicals in your brain.
When you exercise, you reduce the amount of stress hormones your body produces. Specifically, the production of adrenaline and cortisol. You probably recognize adrenaline, it’s the one that produces your “fight or flight” reaction.
Cortisol works in tandem with adrenaline by curbing bodily processes that would be non-essential in a fight or flight situation. Less of those hormones help you feel more calm, cool and collected.
In addition, exercise produces endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Endorphins are what give you the “runner’s high”. That feeling helps to promote a positive and energized outlook on life even after your workout is complete. It’s a great feeling to carry with you throughout your day.
Feelin’ Yourself – It doesn’t end with the chemicals in your brain though.
According to Harvard Health Watch, published by the Harvard Medical School, behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. “You’ll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor and energy will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.”
When you feel proud of yourself and tackle each day with a sense of accomplishment and belief in your abilities, stress doesn’t have room to get in the way.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body – Illness is stressful no matter what form it takes, but exercise helps you avoid bodily illness in a bunch of ways. Lowering your blood pressure, improving cholesterol, lowering blood sugar and boosting your immune system, just to name a few.
Exercise also cuts your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and even dementia. The list goes on and on!
All of these contribute to a peace of mind that helps you more effectively manage the stress of everyday life and feel good while you do it.
Get Your Zzz’s – Yet another way that exercise helps to manage and relieve stress is by improving your sleep. In fact, your sleep and your stress level are very closely related. Stress can cause you to get lower quality sleep and for shorter durations of time. To compound that, insufficient sleep will increase your stress. It truly is a vicious cycle.
Exercise breaks this cycle and allows you to get the quality and length of sleep that your body and mind need. Being well-rested is key for managing stress.
Will Any Exercise Do The Trick?
The short answer is yes! Any exercise will do the trick. We’ve touched on two general forms of exercise below, but if you want to think outside the box, go for it.
Aerobic Exercise – Running, walking, swimming and dancing are all examples of aerobic exercise that will have you kicking stress out of your life. This type of exercise is also known as “muscle meditation”, because they use large muscle groups in rhythmic repetitive motion.
Some people prefer a more vigorous exercise regimen since you’re also burning more calories, but a 20 minute walk will get you the same mental benefits.
Ellipticals are another great example of aerobic exercise, or “muscular meditation”.
Yoga – Yoga is incredibly effective because it is “full-service” in terms of stress management.
When you are stressed it is common for your breathing to become more rapid and shallow. When you do yoga, you are focusing on your breathing, maintaining a slow, measured pace.
The act of slowing your breathing mimics your body’s responses to relaxation. You’re actually tricking your brain into believing that it is relaxed.
The reason yoga is “full-service” for stress relief is because you are also engaging in gentle muscle stretching. This helps to relieve the physical manifestations of stress, such as tight muscles or achy joints.
You can find what works best for you, or even utilize them all if you want! You don’t need to a pro to take advantage of the stress relieving properties of these various types of exercise.
If you are using iFit in your home you can access workouts through their online library or try a live session with your own trainer. Whether you’re on a machine, on a mat, or on the floor, there’s something to try. If you’re not familiar with iFit and all of the exercise that it can bring into your living room, check it out here.
How Much Do You Need to Exercise?
The recommendations for exercise as stress management are the exact same recommendations given for overall health. You don’t even need to do anything extra!
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. That doesn’t meant that you need to set aside huge chunks of time though. You can break that up however you want.
Even a 10 minute exercise break during the day makes enough of a difference to relive your stress or anxiety.
Stress and anxiety are unavoidable, but you can beat it by simply getting up and getting moving. The benefits are amazing and your mind and body will thank you.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax Exercising to Relax: Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School; 2018
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids; 2018