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Why Exercise Reduces Stress – And How That Can Help With A Range Of Health Conditions

woman practises yoga on mat

When we think about stress-relieving activities, we tend to imagine a hot bath, a spa day, reading a book, or listening to music. 

And, certainly, working up a sweat might seem counterproductive when all you want is to relax. But don’t be swayed – exercising is the most powerful stress reliever of all!

As the reported level of stress among Americans reaches an all-time high, understanding what regular physical activity can do for your mind and body is essential. Get moving with the guide below!

How Physical Activity Reduces Stress

When you exercise, a wide range of physiological and chemical reactions take place in several parts of the body. Your heart rate will increase to pump more oxygen around the body, the muscles will start using up more glucose for energy, and the brain will report a surge in chemical messengers (also called neurotransmitters) such as endorphins.

But how can these reactions help you reduce stress? Here are just some of the stress-busting properties of physical activity:

  • It causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins (which cause what’s called the “Runner’s high”), endocannabinoids, serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
  • It imitates your body’s flight-or-fight response, thus getting you better prepared to handle stress in everyday life.
  • It can help you take your mind off the aspects of your life that create stress. 
  • It can boost your mood, self-image, and confidence
  • It helps improve sleep problems such as insomnia, which can lead to fatigue, tiredness, and stress

What’s more, if you suffer from physical stress, the endorphins released during a workout can act as a natural painkiller. 

The Health-Boosting Benefits of Exercising

No matter the kind of exercise you prefer to practice, keeping your body active for at least 30 minutes each day can offer powerful stress-relieving benefits. 

In turn, lower stress levels can help you maintain your overall health and fight long-lasting and chronic health conditions such as anxiety, diabetes, and arthritis. Discover how below. 

Exercise Can Ease Anxiety and Boost Mental Health

Just in the US, over 40 million people suffer from anxiety, and an additional 19 million people have had at least one major depressive episode during their lives. As this epidemic continues to sweep the country, it is important to understand what aspects of our lives are beneficial for mental health and which act as risk factors for psychological conditions. 

In particular, maintaining an active lifestyle and practising regular physical activity are some of the best ways to help ease anxiety. Indeed, according to studies, as little as 30 minutes a day of exercise can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

What’s more, exercise has been seen to trigger the reward system of the brain, which can help people on their addiction recovery journey resist the urge to have a drink or use substances, thus increasing abstinence rates by over 90%.

Stress Can Trigger Epileptic Seizures – Prevent Them With Exercise

Questions such as “what is epilepsy?” and “what triggers epileptic seizures?” are extremely common. But answering them might not always be easy.

Epilepsy can be caused by a wide range of factors, including genetics and brain trauma. What’s more, over 50% of people diagnosed with a seizure disorder don’t know what causes it. 

However, when it comes down to understanding what causes seizures, there is one common denominator: stress. Whether this is caused by sleep deprivation, alcohol use, fever, or dehydration, stress can lead to surges of electrical activity in the brain, thus leading to seizures. 

Regularly engaging in physical activity can help you reduce the frequency of seizures and, in some cases, prevent them altogether. 

Regular Physical Activity Can Prevent Chronic Diseases

Today, an estimated 133 million Americans deal with at least one chronic illness, and the burden of these conditions is set to increase as the population ages and lifestyles become more sedentary. 

Practising regular exercise can help you fend off the risk of developing diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, dementia, obesity, and chronic pain by lowering the levels of inflammation, increasing pulmonary capacity, preventing excessive weight gain, and boosting circulatory function. 

Partner With a Specialized Trainer

If you are unsure about how to introduce exercise into your daily routine, make sure to work with a specialized trainer who can help you understand the best types of activities and sports for your unique needs.