After a stressful day, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. But did you know that exercise actually helps you reduce and manage stress? Not only is exercising good for your physical health, but it also keeps the brain healthy and keeps stress levels low. If you’re constantly stressed but aren’t exercising, this may be the cure!
When the body is stressed, it releases cortisol. This stress hormone adjusts the internal functions in the brain and body, switching them into survival mode and making the body run faster. Although exercise also stresses the body, regular physical activity helps the body release less amounts of cortisol. The body starts to adapt and become more efficient in managing physical stress and releasing less cortisol, thus regulating stress.
Exercise also releases endorphins in our body that are known to give us the “runner’s high.” They prevent pain, fight depression, and boost a sense of positivity and relaxation. Lifting weights, running, playing sport, riding a bike, and swimming are all examples of exercise that release endorphins.
The brain also releases norepinephrine when the body is stressed, causing your lungs, heart, and muscles to work faster and tense up. Exercise helps regulate these hormonal responses and tolerance.
Beyond just regulating hormones, though, exercise also helps relieve stress as a form of meditation. It can relax your body and mind, keeping your head clear and improving your mood. It also improves learning, memory, cognition, and emotional regulation.
What Can I Do?
If you’re feeling stressed and want to get back to exercising, here are some tips:
- Start off lightly
- Set realistic goals to stay motivated and confident
- Find physical activity that you love
- Mark it on the calendar to be consistent
- Find a workout buddy to have accountability
- Keep it exciting and challenging by changing up your routine
- If exercising ever gets too difficult, break the duration into increments
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