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7 ways exercise relieves stress

3 MIN READ • 23rd October 2016

In the modern world, stress is unfortunately a familiar and sometimes constant companion. It can have serious effects on your health, but luckily there are ways to relieve it. We take a look at how getting active can help you leave a bad day behind…

  • 7 ways exercise relieves stress
    Leading a busy life often means that you end up skimping on sleep. You know how much you should be getting (between seven and nine hours a night), but achieving that seems impossible when you’re lying in bed at 3am stuck in the vicious cycle of having hundreds of thoughts whizzing around your brain, aware of the fact that you should be asleep and feeling stressed out that you aren’t. Here’s where exercise steps in – research shows that engaging in regular activity can help to improve your slumber, meaning that you have one less thing to worry about.

  • 7 ways exercise relieves stress
    Combining exercise with seeing friends can help to improve your mood and decrease your stress levels by simply boosting your social activity. Consider inviting your bestie along for your next run, or joining a group class at your local gym. As an added bonus, a survey of 1,000 women found that 64 percent said they work harder when training with friends, and 31 percent consider the actions of pals the best motivation to stay in good shape. The research also showed that during an average workout, women who exercise with others burn up to 236 calories, compared with 95 for those who go it alone.

  • If you need an escape from the day’s irritations, several laps in the pool or a fast-paced game of tennis could be the answer.
    As the Mayo Clinic explains, this form of active mindfulness will mean that you’ll be solely focused on a single task, concentrating only on your body’s movements. Plus, the resulting energy and optimism will help you to remain calm and clear in everything you do. Harvard Medical School agrees: “Exercise is play and recreation; when your body is busy, your mind will be distracted from the worries of daily life and will be free to think creatively.”

  • 7 ways exercise relieves stress
    A great benefit of using exercise as a tool to reduce stress is that you’ll also shrink your waistline, tone up and increase both your strength and stamina along the way, meaning that your self-image will improve and your self-esteem will receive a boost. Even better, your newly discovered energy will help you to succeed in other areas of your life, and the discipline of keeping to a regular workout schedule will provide you with a structure and aid you on your way to achieving other important goals.

  • When you’re stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol. This is what’s needed in a fight-or-flight situation, as it helps to maintain blood pressure, but today’s lifestyle often means that the feeling of stress never ends. In response, your body releases cortisol continuously, leading to serious issues including digestive problems and an increased risk of depression.
    Working out decreases the amount of the hormone in your bloodstream, leading to a reduction of stress symptoms – and the Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice reports that aerobic exercise had the greatest effect on lowering levels.

  • 7 ways exercise relieves stress
    Ever experienced a ‘runner’s high’? You can thank your endorphins, which are your brain’s happy chemicals. As your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, they’re responsible for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that you have after a hard workout.
    A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports tracked two groups of office workers, with one group walking for 30 minutes three times a week and the other doing no exercise. The first group reported being considerably more enthusiastic, less tense and generally more relaxed and able to cope than the non-walking individuals, meaning that just 30 minutes of physical activity boosted their moods.

  • In the long-term, exercise can improve your resiliency, as the American Psychological Association reported that the more sedentary you are, the less efficiently your body responds to stress. Fit people are more likely to handle the effects on their health that stress has, and raising your heart rate can actually reverse the damage to the brain caused by stressful events, according to expert Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen. One study even found that exercise was significantly more effective than tranquilisers for reducing anxiety associated with prolonged stress.

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