It's safe to say that chronic feelings of stress have been much more prevalent over the past few months amidst this global pandemic. Your physical health is monitored even more closely and extra precautions are taken daily to prevent the spread of the virus. However, mental health is just as important, and it is crucial to recognize feelings of anxiety, depression or stress that you may be experiencing.
It can be seen as a little ironic that exercise is a form of physical stress, but the right amount can reduce your mental stress. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Scientists have found that even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Aerobic exercise is not limited to running or using the elliptical, it could be a fun game of tennis, a nature hike on your favorite trail or a few laps in the pool.
Endorphins that are released interact with the opiate receptors in our brains, they reduce pain and boost pleasure, resulting in a feeling of well-being. It is suggested that endorphin release occurs after 30 minutes of physical activity and that group exercise may give you a greater release of endorphins. However, endorphins are only one of many neurotransmitters released when you exercise. The release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are also stimulated with physical activity and play an important part in regulating your mood. The boost of positivity from these neurotransmitters are a great benefit to exercise and help to cope with stress.
Aerobic exercise isn’t the only activity that combats stress either, according to Mayo Clinic, exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your mood, help you relax, and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Many people practice yoga or incorporate stretching and breathing exercises into their daily routine to feel more relaxed. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
Try to aim for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous exercise each day. Don’t make exercising another stressful part of your day either, find something that you actually enjoy!
Join RCW for Virtual and In-Person fitness classes to help combat your stress!
Physical Activity Reduces Stress. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. (2020, August 18). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
Publishing, H. Exercising to relax. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax