Does Exercise Reduce Stress?

Full-legth shot of a young Asian woman sitting on a yoga mat before exercising.

Stress and anxiety are part of daily life, yet they can take their toll on both mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise is an effective way to combat these negative feelings and reverse them.

Aerobic workouts such as running and dancing release endorphins that serve as mood-lifting neurotransmitters, while even walking (which doesn’t require equipment or gym memberships) is beneficial.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Stress can set off an internal response that quickly raises both heart rate and blood pressure, prompting our bodies to make adjustments that cause short-term anxiety or distress, but chronic (long-term) stress can have adverse health repercussions, including cardiovascular conditions, digestive concerns and decreased immunity.

Regular exercise can help offset the negative impacts of stress by relieving anxiety, depression and bad mood. Furthermore, exercise helps combat fatigue while increasing alertness and cognition – according to one study published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry regular physical activity also encourages your brain to release endorphins, natural painkillers.

Aerobic exercises such as running, walking, swimming and cycling are excellent forms of aerobic exercise. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity such as this – for those new to exercising, begin slowly before gradually building up to more strenuous workouts. If your workout seems too intense for you to endure, use the “talk test.” If speaking becomes challenging during exercise it likely exceeds its limits and should be discontinued immediately.

Strength Training

Physical activity not only reduces stress levels directly, but it also promotes overall wellness and optimal health and wellness. Regular exercisers have fewer health problems to worry about and consequently less overall stress levels. Exercise can increase endorphin production in your body as well as improve sleep quality, regulate hormones and relax muscles – although financial burden, injury/illness concerns or worries about body image might prevent some people from beginning a workout regimen; with some extra effort this barrier can be overcome.

Short-term stress in healthy, young people typically is not harmful; however, long-term (chronic) stress may contribute to cardiovascular diseases, digestive issues and an impaired immune system. To combat chronic stress it is vital that exercise be part of your daily routine; even just 10-minute workout sessions can lower blood pressure, increase energy and lift mood – plus strength training sessions will keep muscles relaxed! Exercising regularly is also the ideal solution to combating stress!

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training can also be an effective way of relieving stress. Flexibility refers to the range of motion around a joint and involves stretching muscles and connective tissues – improving posture, movement performance and decreasing risk during physical activity.

All clients, from professional athletes to senior citizens, can benefit from adding stretching and flexibility exercises into their exercise program on a regular basis. Stretching can help alleviate muscle tension caused by prolonged confinement such as on a plane flight or meeting.

Static stretching is the most commonly practiced stretching method and typically entails holding positions for 15 to 30 seconds before relaxing into them. To increase flexibility safely and effectively, dynamic warmup exercises similar to those found during desired activity should first be conducted at low intensity and speed levels.


Yoga goes beyond postures and deep breathing exercises – it also teaches us how to slow down and focus on what’s happening now, helping manage our stress levels in an effective manner.

Studies show that practicing yoga can increase flexibility, strength, cardio-respiratory fitness, mental/emotional wellbeing and sleep quality – as well as increase relaxation. One research project concluded that eight weeks of yoga practice improved blood pressure among people living with hypertension by increasing baroreceptor sensitivity – helping the body detect any imbalances and maintain balance.

Deep breathing techniques used in yoga can reduce cortisol levels in your body, which is associated with stress and anxiety. Breathing slowly and deeply also stimulates the vagus nerve, activating parasympathetic nervous system activity that lowers heart rate, improves digestion, promotes restful sleep and strengthens immunity systems. Yoga also fosters interoceptive awareness by helping users recognize internal body signals to act upon appropriately

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