Feeling a little stressed lately? You’re not alone. And while you might think that turning to your favorite pint of Ben & Jerry’s might be the easy way out, its effects will wear off quicker than you think. One activity that does relieve stress? Exercise. That’s right. Studies have shown that incorporating regular exercise to relieve stress is an easy way to manage your stress levels. But what counts as “exercise”? How often do you have to exercise to get the stress-relieving benefits? Well, read on, friend, and let’s learn about how you can exercise to relieve your stress.
How Does Exercise Relieve Stress?
Why should you exercise to relieve stress, you ask? Well it all boils down to that one time Elle Woods talked about endorphins. Seriously – this isn’t a joke. Exercising promotes the release of endorphins into your bloodstream, which helps to counteract all of the stress-induced hormones. They’re kind of like nature’s painkiller.
If you want to get scienc-y about it, endorphins are a form of neurochemical. When you stress out, your body releases hormones (a.k.a. neurochemicals). Specifically, the kind of hormones that tell your organs you’re going into the infamous “fight or flight” mode. As your stress levels increase, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are produced. While this might be helpful if you’re a cave person trying to outrun a now-extinct mammoth predator, high levels of these stress hormones can really do a number on you. The longer your stress causes the overproduction of the “fight or flight” hormones, the more of a toll it takes. It’s not unusual for chronic (unabated) stress to lead to serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and chronic fatigue and insomnia.
But exercise does more for you than just release endorphins. It can also give your mind something else to focus on – other than what’s stressing you, obviously. For example, say your form of regular exercise is simply going for a walk with your dog. What you might not be aware of, is the fact that this simple act of taking your dog for a walk can reduce your stress levels because it gives your mind something to focus on. Overthinkers, rejoice! Find that thing that helps you focus on what you love, and you might be surprised how much less stressed you are at the end.
What Kinds of Exercise Counts?
Here’s the part you’ve probably been waiting for. Literally just about any kind of movement counts. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can get the same stress-relieving benefits from almost any kind of exercise. From yoga to basketball, you can find something that you love and that works for your skill level. If HIIT’s your thing, then go for it. But if you’d rather take a post-dinner walk through the park, that works too.
But this isn’t a competition. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or a seasoned exercise veteran. You just need to start. Get that blood moving. Pop on a podcast and move through some body flows. Or crank up the jams and get your living room dance party on. The moral of the story is that you can choose any exercise to relieve stress.
How Often Should You Exercise?
In this case, more is typically better. But remember, it’s not a competition. If you’re just starting out, think baby steps. Because ultimately you want to build a routine that you can reliably stick to. According to the American Heart Association, you should get at least 30 minutes of physical movement in, five times per week. If you are struggling to commit 30 minutes all in one block, try breaking it up into smaller, more manageable segments. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. You can start ramping up your frequency and intensity as you progress in your exercise regimen.
Seven out of ten adults in the US struggles with chronic stress, which means you’re not alone in this battle. From your work life to home life, it can be challenging to not become overwhelmed by life’s daily adulting requirements. Exercising can work wonders for your body and offset the overproduction of your stress hormones. Find what works for you and remember that you don’t have to be a professional athlete – you only need to start.