Dealing with stressful situations has become our bread and butter. No matter whether it is your professional or personal life, feeling anxious about certain things is probably an integral part of your existence, especially during these traumatic times. Stress can be a precursor to numerous illnesses, both mental and physical, so getting it under control is essential. One of the ways of doing that is learning how physical activity reduces stress.
Nobody likes to feel stressed. It makes you nervous, forcing you to make mistakes and feel bad about yourself. There are lots of lifestyle changes that can help reduce stress, especially your diet, but for many people regular physical activity, especially if it is outdoors, can be one of the quickest ways to help reduce stress,
There’s a broad range of benefits of regular exercise. Clearly, staying physically active is vital not only for your physical but also for mental health.
For example, a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
How does physical activity reduce stress?
Have you ever heard of endorphins? Of course, you have. But did you know that physical activity helps your brain release them? And it doesn’t matter whether you hit the gym three times a day or, if you are a golf enthusiast, take your brand new Titleist equipment to shoot a few rounds of golf. Both will help you reduce stress and boost your mood.
But that’s not the only mental benefit that comes with regular exercise. Physical activity also enhances your confidence. After all, the main point of working out for most people starts with maintaining a healthy body. As soon as you notice how good your clothes look on you, you are going to feel more confident.
Exercise also decreases stress hormones. Yes, they exist, and the most (in)famous of them is cortisol. Staying active lowers its level in your system, allowing you to feel calm and relaxed.
Probably the most direct benefit of working out is that it takes your mind off stress-related aspects of your life. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, try going for a run or playing a few rounds of squash, go for a walk in the woods, along a lake or the seashore, or even do some gardening. For a moment you are going to forget about all your problems and come back to tackle them with a clear head and energy.
Of course, exercise improves your physical health, which has a vital part in your mental well-being. Staying active can decrease your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system, this reducing the likelihood of serious medical conditions.
Working out also Improves the quality of your sleep, providing it isn’t too close to bedtime, and is often the source of a good social network.
In short, embracing physical activity as a means of reducing stress is one of the most efficient yet most straightforward and pleasant ways there is, particularly if you find the right exercise plan to suit you and maximise your efforts.
And if you want to maximise your efforts, you need to know how to create the right plan:
Creating an Efficient Exercise Plan
Let’s start by stressing that the best form of exercise is one that you enjoy! Don’t worry if the gym doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other option.
As Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health, says:
Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly
Understanding the Chinese Medicine approach to exercise is also interesting. The ancient Taoist masters state that people should not only avoid overindulging but also overexertion, which they say exhausts the sinews and bones.
Below are some types of exercise that many specialists recommend as being the most efficient in the battle with stress, but the list is by no means exhaustive:
The list includes:
- Strength training
- Martial Arts such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong
- Outdoor activities such as gardening or playing ball with the kids
Choosing the one from physical activities above should not be difficult. The challenging part is creating a plan and sticking to it. Only doing that will ensure you make the most out of your training program and improve your overall health.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is to ensure you do not overdo your exercise. Pushing yourself to the limits, especially at the beginnings, can have a negative impact on your physical health. And you can be sure that nothing makes you less motivated than severe injury.
Secondly, prepare yourself for different stages of motivation. Do not be surprised when your enthusiasm will start to fade away slowly, it’s completely normal. Make sure you fight it, though. Stay committed and keep going no matter what. You can also try doing different exercises to make it more interesting.
As you can see, the most challenging thing is staying committed to your plan. Make sure you create a particular routine and stick to it. Set yourself realistic goals, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different sports. Doing that will keep things exciting.
What Else Should You Do?
But working out is not your only weapon in the stress relief arsenal. If you want to maximize your efforts and create the ultimate anti-stress combination, you should mix your exercise with other approaches.
If you understand the gut-brain connection, you will certainly understand why your diet is so important to your mental wellbeing. And did you know that there are even certain foods that can help reduce stress!
And a few other basic points to consider:
- Reduce your caffeine intake
- Keep in touch with friends and family, but
- Avoid toxic social media
- Check out local support groups.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel.
- Consider getting a pet
Remember that regular physical activity reduces stress and consider what other steps you need to take to support your battle against stress and anxiety.
Remember the old saying: a sound mind in a sound body? Well, as you can see, there’s a reason why that’s true!
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