How Does Exercise Help to Reduce Stress?

May 31, 2022

How Does Exercise Reduce Stress?

Your heart rate rises as you workout. More blood is pumped around your body, carrying oxygen and nourishment to your vital organs and muscles. This includes your mind. Chronic stress has been linked to decreased blood flow to the brain, particularly in areas related to emotional processing, such as the prefrontal cortex. Exercise is thought to counteract the effects of chronic stress by increasing cerebral blood flow. This makes it easier for the brain to process emotions like stress.

The Release of Feel-Good Chemicals

Exercise also causes the production of brain-boosting molecules like BDNF, endorphins, and other feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Proteins like BDNF keep your neurons healthy and promote the formation of new ones in a process known as neurogenesis. Adult neurogenesis is influenced by the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning, memory, anxiety, and stress regulation. Stress inhibits adult neurogenesis. As a result, the hippocampus shrinks in size and function. This increases stress levels and can lead to mental health issues like depression. According to MRI studies, those with severe depression had a 10% reduced hippocampus volume than those who are not depressed. Running and other aerobic exercises have been shown to have a particularly beneficial effect on the hippocampus. The endorphin release that occurs during exercise helps you cope with stress, according to a 2014 clinical trial. Three 30-minute aerobic sessions each week for three months led to a 16.5 percent increase in hippocampus volume. They are natural analgesics or painkillers. They diminish pain sensations and induce emotions of enjoyment when they attach to opioid receptors in the brain. That's why you've experienced "runner's high." Other feel-good neurotransmitters released during exercise, such as dopamine and serotonin, help to counteract stress. They control your mood and give you a sense of hope by regulating the pleasure and reward circuits in your brain. Chronic stress lowers dopamine levels in the brain, but exercise can help restore them. In fact, consistent exercise can reshape the brain over time. With more accessible receptors, you'll have higher levels of circulating dopamine. It will become easy to feel happier and less worried.

What Type of Exercise Reduces Stress?

All sorts of exercise have clear mental-health advantages. However, cardiovascular activity, particularly running, has proven to be a particularly efficient stress reliever. This stress-relieving exercise will improve your ability to handle life's daily stresses by moving your entire body in a fluid motion. Moving your entire body in a fluid motion can help you get out of your head and into your body; when you align breathing with movement, you're also becoming more present. Jogging has been cited by some experts as a type of mindfulness. A study published in the journal Acta Psychologica indicated that running one to two miles improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances cognitive performance more than meditating. Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for shifting from fight-or-flight mode to the parasympathetic, rest-and-digest state. You'll feel muscle relaxation, a calmer nervous system, and overall mind-body stress alleviation in a parasympathetic state. If jogging is a form of mindfulness and more effective than meditation, it's a strong approach to de-stress. To reset your thoughts and obtain the finest stress-relieving results, try to practice deep breathing during your run. Running outside has also been proved in research to have enhanced benefits for your stress levels and mental health. A study published in the Medicine & Science Sports & Exercise journal indicated that participants who went for a run had lower stress levels and emotional reactivity than those who didn't. This is most likely due to the exercise's brain remodeling effect.

Find What Works for You

Don't worry if running isn't your thing. Physical activity of any kind can assist to reduce stress and should be included in any stress-reduction strategy. Moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise reduced anxiety, stress, and depression among people in COVID-19-related lockdowns, according to research published in 2021. You can also undertake low-impact physical activities like tai chi or yoga. The breathing and contemplative aspects of these two sports, together with the exercise advantages, have been shown in studies to help people cope with stress.
According to a 2018 study, tai chi decreases anxiety as well as other moderate-intensity exercises. Remember that certain workouts, while beneficial to some people, should not be considered a one-size-fits-all solution. It's critical to figure out which sorts of exercise make you feel the best. Get your body moving to relieve tension, whether it's through aerobic exercise, weight training, or yoga.

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Relieve Stress?

Three to five days each week, you should strive for 30 minutes of activity or more. This can help substantially with stress, despair, and anxiety symptoms. If you don't have time to exercise for 30 minutes a day, even 10 to 15 minutes a day could make a significant difference in your stress levels.

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