Physical Activity and Stress Management

Mary Gormandy White
Manage Stress Through Physical Activity

It is well known that there are many health benefits associated with exercise, including lower blood pressure, weight loss and improved heart health. Exercise can also be a powerful stress management strategy. In fact, physical activity is one of the best and most effective natural stress relief options.

Stress Management Benefits of Exercise

According to Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress from the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help improve overall mood, increase the release of endorphins and offer meditation-like qualities. Exercise can also reduce the fight or flight response often triggered by stress.

Mood Elevation

Physical activity can improve mood, resulting in a reduction in stress brought on by mild cases of depression or anxiety. Exercise can also improve your quality of sleep, which definitely can have an impact on your overall mood.

Endorphin Release

Participating in physical activity can result in an increase in endorphin levels. Endorphins are chemicals or neurotransmitters that are released from the brain. They have analgesic properties and can make you feel good.

Meditation-Like Qualities

Exercise can be like a form of meditation. While you are involved in an engrossing physical activity, you may find that you are concentrating strictly on the exercise. Problems and worries that may be a part of your life may not be on your mind during the workout.

Reduction of Fight or Flight Response

Reduce Stress Through Exercise from The-Fitness-Motivator.com explains that stress, no matter how large or small, activates your flight or fight response and in doing so, floods your body with a cocktail of different hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Exercise metabolizes the hormones triggered by the fight or flight response, burning off these chemicals so that you don't feel like fighting with someone or hiding from the world. Once these hormones have burned themselves out, your level of homeostasis improves, and you feel calm and ready to tackle the world once again.

Using Exercise for Stress Relief

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for physical well-being adults need exercise several days every week and should do a combination of moderately intense aerobic activity and strength training totaling about 150 minutes each week. According to the Mind/Body Education Center, shorter mini-sessions of physical activity can help with stress management. Just ten minutes at a time of vigorous effort can count toward this total and help reduce your stress level and improve your mood.

Types of Exercise to Try

Any physical activity that increases the respiratory rate and causes a positive mental distraction is a good choice for stress management, including solo activities and ones that include a companion.

Many types of physical activities that can work to reduce stress. A few examples include the following:

  • Running
  • Biking
    Yoga for Stress Management
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Tennis
  • Yoga

Tips for Creating a Stress-Reducing Exercise Plan

When planning for physical activity and stress management, you have to take into consideration your health and activity level. Creating an exercise program makes it easier for you to avoid injury and achieve your goal of stress management.

  • Speak to your doctor before starting a new physical regimen. Your physician can tell you if you have any physical limitations that you should take into consideration when selecting an activity.
  • Find something that you really enjoy doing because that increases the likelihood that you would continue participating in the activity.
  • Slowly build up your activity level and participation in your newly chosen physical activity. Start with 20-30 minute sessions three times a week and gradually increase the time.
  • Strength training activities should be part of your exercise regimen as well as cardiovascular activities.

Experience Physical and Mental Benefits

Exercise is critical to controlling stress and relieving tension. Make physical activity a priority, and you'll find that the mental and physical benefits far outweigh the effort. Start exercising and stick with it for the best results.

Physical Activity and Stress Management