How Exercise Helps Reduce Stress

Updated: Jul 24

Folks seem a lot more stressed these days from road rage to workplace woes, martial spats turn catastrophic and kids climbing the walls. Stress is a natural part of life and how you cope matters most. Stress shows up both mentally and physically and one form can compound another. For example, mental stress such as irritability, anger or hostility can lead to clenched jaws and can cause headaches, neck pain or shoulder tension. Restlessness results in insomnia. Stress that shows up as worry or anxiety might physically produce bubble guts or butterflies, heartburn or diarrhea. The first step is to notice how stress is impacting your body and brain and then seeking solutions as simple as exercise to help alleviate the symptoms of stress.


Stress is biochemical response in our bodies. When we feel stressed in a healthy way chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol get released in our bodies to help us to stay on high alert and get ready for physical activity such as running or fighting. This physical response is great for sporting events, getting us out of dangerous situations or emergencies. In these situations, stress is a vital survival process but when we stay in stressed state for long periods of time it takes a tremendous toll on our minds and our bodies. When our sympathetic flight, flight or freeze nervous system is constantly activated that can contribute to chronic stress. Chronically stressed people frequently suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach, and digestive problems, ulcers, immune disorders, diabetes, insomnia, depression. A consistent exercise routine can combat chronic stress and reduce the likelihood of negative health outcomes.


Exercise lowers the bodies stress hormones and stimulates the flow of more feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. Finding an enjoyable exercise routine can be the perfect one-two punch of natural painkiller and mood elevator. Walking or jogging for 20minutes a few days during the week can be an entry point to developing a more consistent routine. Starting with a simple stroll through your neighborhood or local park is the best way to breathe fresh air, stress less, and engage in a “muscular meditation.” Some folks need extra motivation so group fitness classes can be great. Resistance training classes can help burn some extra stream while classes such as yoga or barre can blend challenging poses with moments of rest and relaxation to balance the brain and body. Once you find an activity you love consistency is key to reducing stress and improving your overall well-being.



©2022 Jewell Singletary. All Rights Reserved.




SOURCES:

· Exercising to Relax, 2020, Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School

· Madell, Robin and Pletcher, Peggy, M.S., R.D., L.D., CDE, 2020, Exercise as Stress Relief, https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/exercise-stress-relief

· Jackson, Erica M. Ph.D., FACSM, 2013, Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal


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