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How to Use Exercise as a Stress Reliever

How does exercise help with stress?

Physical activity improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and also improves blood flow. Both of these changes have a direct effect on your brain.

Exercise also reduces your levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and increases your brain’s production of endorphins, according to Harvard Health.

Endorphins are the feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for the feeling called runner’s high. This is the sense of well-being and euphoria that many people experience after exercise. Physical activity can also help take your mind off your worries. Leaving a stressful situation to go exercise can provide a much-needed break.

Also, the repetitive motions in exercise help you focus on your body rather than your mind.

By concentrating on the rhythm of your movements, you experience many of the same benefits of meditation while working out. Focusing on a single physical task activates calmness and clarity.

Some people notice an improvement in their mood immediately after a workout. Those feelings tend to build up over time.

You’ll likely notice increased feelings of well-being as you stay committed to a consistent exercise routine over a few days, weeks, and months.

Other benefits of exercise

In addition to having the direct effect of reducing your stress levels, regular exercise promotes optimum health in other ways.

Among some of its additional benefits, exercise can help:

  • strengthen your muscles and bones

  • strengthen your immunity, which can decrease your risk for illness and infection

  • lower your blood pressure, sometimes as much as some antihypertensive medications

  • boost levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood

  • improve your blood circulation

  • improve your ability to control weight

  • help you sleep better at night

  • boost your energy

  • improve your self-image

How to stay motivated

It’s normal to feel unmotivated sometimes. The trick is to use ways of thinking that help you get out of the rut and keep going.

Here are a few things you can tell yourself to get past common excuses you might find yourself making, according to the CDCTrusted Source:

  • “I don’t have enough time”: Monitor your schedule for 1 week and identify at least three 30-minute slots where you could fit in exercise.

  • “My to-do list is already too long”: Make appointments with yourself for exercise every week. Put them on your calendar and block off that time, then show up.

  • “I’m too tired”: Schedule exercise for times during the week when you know you’ll feel more energetic.

  • “I have little kids”: Organize a babysitting exchange with other friends or acquaintances who also have kids. When your kids are older, consider going out for a walk, hike, or bike ride as a family.

When to talk with your doctor

It’s a good idea to ask your doctor what types of exercise are right for you and how much — especially if you have a chronic disease like a heart condition, diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure.

It’s also important to assess the sources of stress and address them if needed. In addition to exercising and practicing other stress relief techniques, you might want to seek help from a psychologist or other healthcare professional to get at the root of your stress.

If you’re out of shape or new to exercising, ask your doctor for guidance on what forms of exercise are right for you.

They can help you develop a safe and effective workout routine while taking your specific condition and fitness level into account. Discuss appropriate intensity levels with your doctor.

You can enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of exercise even if you feel out of shape or don’t consider yourself athletic.

Regular exercise can help you feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed and more relaxed, optimistic, and happy.

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