You know exercise is healthy for your body, but you’re too busy and stressed to squeeze it into your schedule. Wait a minute – there’s some positive news about exercise and stress.
Almost any type of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, may serve as a stress reliever. Even if you’re not an athlete or are out of shape, a little exercise may go a long way toward stress management. Discover the link between exercise and stress alleviation – and why it should be a component of your stress management strategy.
Exercise and stress relief
Exercise improves your entire health and well-being, giving you more pep in your step every day. However, exercise offers some immediate stress-relieving advantages.
1. It Pumps Up Your Endorphins
Endorphins are hormones that improve your mood, enhance your immune system and help you cope with pain. The word “endorphin” is derived from two other words: endogen, meaning “produced within the body,” and morphine, which refers to a naturally-occurring opiate.
These hormones are released in response to physical exercise, especially aerobic exercises like walking, running, cycling, and swimming. Endorphins leave you feeling good and give you a natural “high.
2. It Reduces Your Cortisol Levels
If you’ve ever spent a day of hard work in the garden or gym and felt exhausted and “all washed out,” you’ve experienced the effects of cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress.
Exercise reduces cortisol levels, just like it reduces stress, which is a big part of why you feel so good after working out. A regular exercise program can lower your cortisol levels, which, in turn, can improve your mood, energy, and ability to cope with stress.
3. It’s Meditation in Motion
If you’re an athlete or you’ve done a lot of yoga, you know how meditative and restful physical activity can be. And if you’re not an athlete, you can use a regular exercise program to get the same stress-busting benefits that athletes get from their sport.
Exercise has been compared to meditation. That’s because you’re so focused on getting your body to do what it’s supposed to do that you’re not thinking about your anxiety and stress. Another form of exercise that’s been shown to relieve stress is walking — even if you don’t do it in a particular way.
4. Improves Your Mood
Stress elevates your mood, which can make you feel like you’re invincible. But when you’re in a stressed-out state, you can feel like you can’t get anything done. When you exercise, you get the mood-lifting benefits of stress, but you also feel better able to cope with challenges.
5. Improves Your Sleep
Several studies have shown that exercise helps with sleep, whether you’re a high- or low-quality sleeper. One reason is that when you exercise, you reduce stress and the amount of cortisol in your body, which helps you to feel calm and less tense. That, in turn, helps you to relax and sleep better.
Exercise and stress relief go hand-in-hand. If you’re having trouble finding time for exercise, try using a stress-management technique like meditation. You’ll reduce your stress, get a natural high and improve your overall health and well-being.
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