Question

Benefits of Regular Exercise

How does exercise help reduce stress?

A Answers (5)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    Exercise happens to be one of the very best ways to reduce stress. Stress causes your body to build up extra energy, preparing it for fight or flight (whereby the body primes itself to respond successfully to a dangerous situation). Exercise burns energy and reduces your stress levels. Exercise metabolizes stress hormones in your blood and increases levels of your body's built-in anti-anxiety hormones, making you feel calmer. Exercise can make you more efficient and energetic, so that you feel less overwhelmed by the stresses you do face. For example, just walking regularly can increase the level of beta-endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors (both groups are neurotransmitters or hormones that help the body feel pleasure or increase memory) in the brain, decrease anxiety and tension, and elevate one's mood. In addition, all exercise (but especially aerobic exercise) helps divert energy from worrying and anxiety.
  • ADarren Treasure, PhD, Sports Medicine, answered on behalf of Nike SPARQ Training Network
    There are a number of explanations that have proposed to explain how exercise reduces stress. Exercise has been shown to decrease “stress hormones” such as cortisol and increase endorphins commonly referred to as body’s “feel good” chemicals, i.e., “runner’s high.”  From a psychological perspective, improvements in body image, self-esteem, self-confidence or mastery have been shown to be related to reductions in stress. Or it could simply be that taking time out from the stresses of your day and going for a 20 minute walk may contribute to the positive benefits of exercise. In addition to reducing stress, exercise has also been found to act as a stress-buffer with people who exercise regularly seemingly better equipped to handle stress they face in their everyday lives. Although the explanation for why exercise reduces stress is still unknown, it is likely to involve the interplay between the body and the mind. The bottom line however is that people who exercise experience not only a reduction in their current stress levels but also an enhanced ability to cope with stress in the future.         
  • The research states that people feel more relaxed after exercise and that exercise reduces the severity of physical and emotional stress related symptoms and illnesses. People report feeling less angry and irritable if they exercise regularly.
  • Chronic stress leads to increased appetite and abdominal fat as well as lack of sleep, bad combination! Exercise will increase blood flow to the brain creating a positive chemical reaction that will enhance brain function and reduce stress levels.
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  • AVonda Wright, MD, Orthopedic Surgery, answered
    Exercise is a great stress modulator. Stress is anything you say it is, and we all feel it differently. The things that stress me out may not be worrisome to you at all. Whatever the cause of your stress reaction, it is the healthy mode of operation for our brains, and it was designed to give our brains the tools to function during the fight-or-flight state. When we experience stress, our brains are aroused by adrenaline and focused by the release of dopamine.

    When stress becomes overwhelming or chronic, however, it can start to erode the neural pathways that keep our mind connected. The continual release of stress hormones is detrimental to our brains and bodies alike. It is thought that chronic exercise decreases stress by raising the physical and mental stress threshold, elevating self-esteem, and stimulating the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which increases brain plasticity and neuron growth and combats the effects of chronic cortisol exposure.
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