Can Exercise Really Help Reduce Stress? by Hayden Riley, M.S.

Unfortunately, stress is often an inevitable part of life. With nearly 7 out of 10 adults in the US stating that they experience stress or anxiety daily, most feel that it moderately interferes with their lives as well. Even though it is impossible to avoid all stress in life, the goal is to learn ways in which you can handle, reduce, and avoid stress. Reducing stress is important because chronic stress can often lead to the following: heart disease, anxiety and/or depression, headaches, digestive issues, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and/or concentration impairment.

So what do we do about it? Well, exercise has been shown to have a multitude of positive cognitive effects, which include: reducing anxiety, stress, and even depression. Exercise and/or physical activity produce chemicals called “endorphins,” which are known to relieve pain and trigger positive feelings. In addition, exercises can reduce stress and tension, improve sleep, elevate and stabilize your mood, and improve overall self-esteem. Thankfully, just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise has been found to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. With than being said, let’s discuss a few ways in which you can replace the stress in your life with exercise!

Sweat it out. After 30-40 minutes biking, using the elliptical, or taking a nice run outside, I guarantee you’ll feel like a whole new person. Don’t have the time? That’s fine! Take 10 minutes out of your lunch break on those busy, stress-filled days and take a little walk! Not only will this help to keep you calm, but it will keep you productive…and healthy!

Tired of cardio? Why not try yoga? Yoga is a mindful approach to exercise that incorporates breathing, meditation, and relaxation. Find a style of yoga you like, take a class, and use this time to center yourself – leaving the stress of work behind you. Practicing yoga not only helps reduce stress and enhance your mood and sense of well-being, but it has also been shown to elicit the following benefits:

  • Decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate
  • Improves muscle tone, flexibility and strength
  • Improves concentration
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Improves immunity
  • Enhance balance, posture, and coordination
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Enhance digestions
  • Can reduce or alleviate pain
  • Provides tools and techniques for coping