Ways Exercise Can Reduce Stress

Three women releasing stress and enjoying a water workout
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About eight out of 10 U.S. adults say they experience stress at some point during their day. Whether it’s at work or at home, Americans are feeling a little burnt out or anxious. And this frequent stress can have health consequences, too, from raising your blood pressure to increasing your risk for depression.

To help you reduce your stress and improve your whole health, we encourage all adults to find time for exercise.

Exercise Changes Your Brain

While you exercise — particularly during cardiovascular exercise — your brain begins changing what chemicals and hormones it produces. Your levels of stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) fall, while your brain pumps out happiness hormones like endorphins.

Endorphins are natural mood enhancers that stay elevated even after exercise is complete, helping you feel more relaxed. Exercise gives your brain regular doses of endorphins and a chance to clear out stress-related hormones. Over time, this can help you reach better emotional wellness and improve your mood.

Exercise Improves Your Self-Esteem

Regular exercise can help you lose excess weight and tone up your body, often leading to a healthier body image and more confidence. Even if you don’t lose weight, exercise can help you appreciate the amazing things your body can do.

When you feel more confident in your body, you’re also less likely to feel stress. Great self-esteem can boost your mood and help protect you from anxiety or doubt.

Exercise Relaxes Your Body

Exercise technically means placing your muscles and heart under stress, but it is a good kind of stress that can actually reduce the physical symptoms of stress in your body, including:

  • Chest tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Pounding pulse
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tense muscles
  • Trouble breathing

As you begin to exercise, your body stops creating stress responses to focus instead on the physical demands of exercise.

Stopping the physical signs of stress is important because it breaks the cycle of stress. First you feel stressed, then your body has physical symptoms of stress. These symptoms can make you even more stressed. Exercise breaks this cycle, helping reduce stress levels and improve how you feel physically and mentally.

Exercise Improves Sleep

When you’re sleep-deprived, you don’t have the energy to control your mood or look on the bright side. People who experience sleep deprivation are even at higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Exercise can improve your sleep quality and also help you get more sleep. Exercising during the day, particularly outside, helps reinforce your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural sleep-awake cycle).

When your circadian rhythm is strong, your body is more likely to respond to signs that it’s time to sleep, like less light and falling temperatures. This makes it easier for you to fall and stay asleep at night.

Live Your Best, Low-Stress Life

At AdventHealth, our wellness experts want to help you decrease stress and improve your body, mind and spirit through healthy lifestyles. Learn how our physical therapy experts can help design a safe and effective exercise program that will help you live your best life.

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