Updated: May 5, 2019
If you're like the rest of us, stress is a regular part of your day. Some statistics suggest that up to 77 percent of us feel the physical effects of stress on a regular basis in the form of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, muscle aches and pains, crankiness, and difficulty focusing. Getting rid of stress is impossible, but learning how to deal with it in a healthy way can actually help get rid of some of the worst symptoms. And the best way to do that is with exercise.
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.
It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
It's meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements.
As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. 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.
Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise
Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.
More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energised.
Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.