Stress is an ever-present factor of modern life, and our bodies are adapted to deal with it, as well as use it to our advantage. But when it becomes overwhelming, both our bodies and minds can be significantly adversely affected.
As our society becomes more health-conscious, there has been an increased focus on the importance of exercise. Many people exercise to control weight, to be healthier or physically attractive, but exercise and the management of stress are also closely linked. Exercise can be an extremely effective stress reliever for several reasons:
- As an Outlet for Frustrations
When life’s annoyances or frustrating situations build up, we can feel stressed or experience anger.
High-energy forms of exercise like running, biking, rowing, boxing, or weight training can provide an effective release for negative emotions, by turning them into motivation thereby increasing overall health and well-being.
- Exercise and Stress Hormones
Exercise can decrease ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost – this is the chemistry behind a ‘runner’s high’ which I can certainly attest to.
Physical activity can take the mind off problems and either redirect it on to your chosen activity, or blank it into a sort of meditative state. Exercising outside also provides a change of scene which, in itself, is distracting and calming.
- Social Support
The benefits of support are well documented. Because exercise and physical activity can often involve others, stress-relief is combined with the benefits of exercise and fun with friends. Whether you’re in a class with others, working with a Personal Trainer, or walking with a friend, having others to exercise with can make you feel good, as well as help to motivate.
- Increased Health
Stress can cause illness, and illness can also cause stress because of physical pain, missed activities, and feelings of isolation. So, improving your overall health with exercise can also save you a great deal of stress in the short term by strengthening your immunity to colds, flu, and other minor illnesses; in the long term by helping you stay healthier for longer, and gaining more enjoyment from life because of it.
- Looking Good
You may think this is superficial, but a significant benefit of exercise is helping to lose, or maintain, weight, tone up and maintain a healthy glow.
Research shows that physical activity may be linked to lower physiological reactivity towards stress. So, those who get more exercise may become less affected by the stress they face.
In addition to the benefits above, exercise may supply some immunity from future stress as well as a way of coping with current stress. In todays stressful world, these are great reasons to get more active!