Rest and relaxation are often the first solution many people think of when they are feeling stressed. While it is true that rest and relaxation can help relieve stress, one of the best tools for stress management is exercise.
If you are thinking, “Isn’t exercise a form of physical stress?” You would be correct! However, the physical stress of exercising actually relieves mental stress. Keep reading to learn how!
How Exercise Relieves Stress
According to Harvard Health, regular physical activity has been proven to reduce stress levels and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety in numerous clinical trials. The explanation for this can be broken down into two main components: a chemical response and a behavioral response.
The Chemical Response: The mental benefits you experience with physical activity have a neurochemical basis. Exercising reduces the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which are your body’s stress hormones. It also stimulates the production of endorphins. These are the chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high,” which is the feeling of relaxation and optimism that accompanies many runs and hard workouts.
The Behavioral Response: When you commit to and complete a workout, you will earn a sense of accomplishment, mastery and control. The more regular your workouts become, the stronger you will feel, and you will begin to notice positive changes in your body. This helps improve your self-image and self-confidence and gives you a feeling of pride. Your improved energy and stamina levels will also help you succeed in tasks both at work and at home, and the discipline of regular exercise will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals. All of which will encourage you to continue exercising until it becomes a habit you rely on.
If you are just beginning your exercise journey, remember to take it slow and be kind to yourself. You will not see results overnight. Also, it is important to remember that when you are just getting started, exercising can feel more like work than a stress relieving activity. It takes time to fully enjoy the experience and feel that “runner’s high.”
However, just about every form of physical activity can help relieve stress and achieving small goals will have the same effect on your mental health. Plus, making progress and growing stronger will help you build on and improve your exercise habits.
To learn more about getting started with exercising and the precautions to take, visit Mayo Clinic!