Everyone has some level of stress in their life. Stress can affect you in many ways, affecting your mood, relationships, productivity, physical health, and mental wellness. Stress is almost impossible to avoid completely, but it can be managed. Working out is a healthy, natural way to recover from the demands of work, family, and other responsibilities. Here are five ways exercise can help you live a calmer, more centered life.
1. Working out activates your body’s feel-good chemicals.
You’ve probably noticed that you feel great after you finish a strenuous workout. There’s a scientific reason for that: exercise causes your brain to produce endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkilling chemicals. A post-workout endorphin rush can leave you feeling happy, motivated, and energetic for hours afterwards. Studies have found that regular exercise can help treat depression, largely thanks to the endorphin effect (Otto and Smits, 2011).
2. Exercise is a healthy way to get rid of tension.
Do you ever feel like you carry all your stress in your shoulders or the pit of your stomach? Exercise can help you relax and feel better. Whether you prefer to stretch slowly in a yoga class, push your muscles to their limits in the weight room, or just go for a long walk, working out helps you release muscle tension – and the mental tension that goes along with it. Nothing makes me feel better than a run with my favorite playlist or pushing through leg day at the gym.
3. Exercise makes you more mindful.
When your mind is racing and your to-do list is a mile long, it can be hard to let go of your worries and live in the moment. Exercise is a great way to start paying attention to the here and now. After all, it’s hard to think too much about your other responsibilities when you’re focused on the intense physical sensations of a good workout and using proper form for those exericses. Best of all, the meditative benefits of exercise last long after you’ve left the gym, helping you feel more present and less stressed for the rest of the day.
4. A good workout makes you feel competent and strong.
Want to improve your mental resilience as well as your physical strength? Work out! Exercise lets you challenge yourself in small ways every day, and there aren’t many things that feel better than running faster, stretching farther, or lifting more than you ever thought you could. Meeting your fitness goals will make you feel capable of taking on any other challenges that come your way.
5. Continue working out once you have started.
Once you have started working out, keep it up to help maintain lower stress levels. Set goals for how often and when you will work out each week. Keep a log of your workouts, tracking what you did and how you felt before and after each day. Refer back to the journal to track your goals and progress. Schedule the time on your calendar and don’t cancel on yourself! Fnd a friend to workout with to keep you accountable. Once working out is part of the routine, it will become a habit, usually within 3 to 8 weeks.
Exercise isn’t just one of the best things you can do for your body — it’s a great way to get rid of stress as well. No matter what kind of stress you’re dealing with, exercise is an all-natural way to keep it under control. Best of all, exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or painful. If working out isn’t currently part of your routine, something as simple as a daily walk can help you start enjoying the stress-relieving benefits of exercise.
Managing the fit life one rep at a time,
Otto, Michael, W. and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD. Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, Oxford University Press, 2011.