Exercise for Stress and Anxiety

Exercise for stress

It is long established that exercise is good for us, it helps to fight disease and improve our physical condition.

Staying physically active is to be encouraged.

However, exercise also plays an important part in maintaining mental health. Exercise can reduce stress.

Studies have detailed that exercise plays a key role in reducing fatigue, making us more alert and able to concentrate and generally enhances our cognitive functions. This is very helpful when stress has sapped at your energy or eaten away at your concentration levels.

If you’re suffering from stress, it affects the brain and due to the nerve connections, the rest of your body feels the impact too. When your body feels better, your mind does too.

Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that are natural painkillers. They are secreted when you take part in exercise or any other physical activity, and endorphins help you to sleep better and subsequently reduce stress.

There is a link between regular aerobic exercise and decreased levels of tension, an elevated mood, improved sleep and enhanced levels of self-esteem. Even five minutes of exercise a day can cause anti-anxiety effects.


Exercise and anxiety

Anxiety and stress are simply a normal part of our lives, but the benefits of exercise appear to go way beyond stress relief to making improvements for those suffering with anxiety and related mental health issues.

Psychologists studying the link between exercise, depression and anxiety suggest that daily walks of even ten minutes may have as much benefit as running, or a 45-minute workout.

Other studies demonstrate that exercises work quickly to lift depressed moods for many of the people they were studying.

Though this is a temporary effect, this demonstrates that a daily walk, or daily running, can provide several hours of relief similar to taking painkillers for a headache.

Scientists have also provided evidence that those who are physically active have lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who are not physically active.

Exercise improves mental health by helping the brain to cope better with experiencing stress. One study determined that those who had regular and vigorous exercise were 25% less likely to experience depression or anxiety over the course of the following five years.


Relaxing therapies for stress and anxiety

Some studies have determined that regular exercise is as effective as medication for some people in terms of reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One vigorous session of exercise can ease these symptoms for hours, and regular exercise for stress and anxiety will reduce these symptoms over time.

Whilst exercise does provide a positive effect for the majority of people, other studies have shown that exercise doesn’t have a positive effect on depression or anxiety and does not have an effect on mental health in the long term.

As is the case with all kinds of therapy, there is a variety of effects. Some people will respond positively, others will find no improvement to their mood at all and others may only experience a short-term boost. However, researchers have determined that the benefits of exercise on physical health aren’t disputed and being physically active is encouraged.


Exercise for stress and anxiety

The recommended weekly exercise for an adult is two and a half hours of moderately physical activity (such as brisk walking), an hour and a quarter of vigorous activity (like jogging or swimming) or a combination of the two.

Given how exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety, it will be beneficial to create an exercise plan. This can be something simple like 5 x 30, where you can cycle, walk, dance or jog five times a week for thirty minutes.

You can also set small, daily goals to help you be consistent rather than perfect with your workouts. It is more beneficial to walk every day for fifteen or twenty minutes rather than do three hours in one hit at a weekend – scientific data suggests that it is frequency that is more important.

You should also pick forms of exercise that you find to be fun or enjoyable so as you don’t associate exercising as being a chore.

Your personality may determine which exercise you wish to pursue. Extroverted people enjoy group activities and exercise groups, more introverted people may prefer individual pursuits such as meditation and yoga.

You may also partake in mindfulness, breathing exercises for stress and anxiety, or easy breathing exercises for quick stress relief.

In order to stave off boredom, you should distract yourself with a portable music player so you can listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts.

Most people prefer to exercise this way. You can also recruit someone to exercise with, which should help you to stick to a routine and can serve as positive peer pressure, someone to motivate you when you don’t really want to exercise.

You also need to be patient when you start a new exercise plan. It can take the best part of two months before you notice that you are in better shape and that exercise feels easier.

There will be days where you don’t feel like exercising, when the weather is bad, or you feel too tired. But when you realise how exercise helps with anxiety, you will adopt a different approach.


How Step 1 can help you

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big effect on everyone’s physical and mental health. We’re all feeling the strain more than we usually would. Exercise is a great way to get your mind and body active and endorphins play a vital part in feeling good.

However, you may not enjoy exercise, or you might be unable to. If you feel that no amount of exercise can help you, why not get in touch with Step 1 Recovery?

Our expert staff are here to talk to 24 hours a day if you feel like your mental health is becoming a serious problem and we can advise you if professional intervention is necessary.

If you think you need expert help, or know someone who does, please call Step 1 Recovery today on 0330 107 2950.