How Staying Fit and Active Can Reduce Stress

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We've put together a list of ways that exercise helps contribute to lowering stress levels.

The benefits of staying active are countless. From improved body image to better heart health, it’s unquestionable that developing a habit of moving your body will bring an abundance of benefits alongside it. And, even better, the longer these habits are sustained, the stronger the benefits become.

The advantages of exercise don’t stop at the physical side; there’s also the mental aspect. A study by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that a daily 15-minute run, or an hour-long walk, can reduce the risk of major depression by 26%. That’s pretty cool.

Working out reduces the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body, and by combining this with an increase in endorphins, the result is ultimately a reduction in your stress levels – both in the short and long term.

It can be difficult to get into gear to begin with, and the stress of adjusting your routine to include exercise might seem counterproductive. The first steps are definitely the most difficult, but by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re opening the doors to a more stress-free life. It’s been found that people who exercise daily reduce their risk of anxiety by 40%, so getting a session in is undoubtably going to benefit your mental health.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can bring advantages to your stress levels, and we recommend doing both. A great way to get in some aerobic exercise is to increase your steps by walking more – perhaps on a lunch break or by walking the dog. If you’re interested in learning more about getting in some anaerobic exercise in less than 30 minutes, check out our blog on HIIT.

The reduction of stress in your lifestyle can manifest itself in a number of ways, some of which can often go unnoticed. Subtle benefits include an improved work-life balance and better relationships with your loved ones. We’ve compiled a list of ways that getting in a workout can benefit your stress levels, sometimes without you even realising.

Emotional Resilience

Sustaining a regular and healthy workout regime will lead you to develop a strong mental mindset. By exercising consistently, you’ll realise that you have the capability to stick to your goals and aspirations – ultimately leading to improved self-confidence from your accomplishments. You’ll head into your workouts knowing exactly what you’re doing, and you’ll be getting stronger by doing it. This all adds up to better self-assurance, trust in your body’s abilities and stronger emotional resilience.

Meditative Workouts

We can all agree that when you first start working out, it isn’t the bees-knees. It’s likely that, as a newbie, you’ll get exhausted quickly and feel like giving up halfway through. It’s a new experience for your body and your mind. Your heart is beating way faster than it has before, your muscles are shaking, and your head is telling you to stop. Yet, once the workout has finished, the endorphins kick straight in and you’re on top of the world. By repeating this process and keeping up with a regular exercise regime, you teach yourself not to listen to the voices in your head telling you to stop. Working out becomes enjoyable, and even meditative. This introspection can transfer into other areas of your life – probably without you even noticing. From calming yourself down before a big meeting to not stressing out if you’re running late to a family dinner – this stronger mental resilience brings benefits into every area of your life; all from exercise. If you’re interested in reading more on the topic, we highly recommend reading The Fear Bubble by Ant Middleton.

Improved Mood

By elevating your heart rate and getting your blood pumping, your body produces feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters that lift your mood. The body releases endorphins, causing a reduction in the perception of pain and improving your immune system. Endorphins also actively fight against the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol isn’t a bad chemical, and it’s getting a bed reputation at the moment with everyone describing it as a toxin, however the chemical is very important. The objective with our hormones is to find a healthy balance in the neurotransmitters that impact our wellbeing, and a healthy exercise routine is a key factor in this process. Exercise naturally causes a stress response in the body – when you’re getting ready to play a team sport like rugby, or heading out for a run, you need the adrenaline to perform well and have the endurance to succeed. And exercising balances all of these chemical factors, meaning there isn’t an excess of one or the other. This all adds up to better regulated stress levels. Picking a form of exercise you enjoy obviously plays an important role in how you feel, so make sure you choose something you love.

Sleep

Balancing sleep and exercise can be a bit chicken-and-egg. Not getting enough sleep means you may not have the energy to exercise, and not exercising can lead to grogginess which makes you more tired. However, exercising in the evening can lead to a deeper sleep, and a longer sleep duration. The decrease in body temperature after finishing a workout contributes to sleepiness – which is great for those who can experience insomnia. The benefits of improved sleep isn’t just for the evening sessions too; by getting in a workout (at any time of the day), you’re tiring yourself out. After exercising, it’s easier to fall asleep at the end of the day, and research indicates that your sleep quality and sleep duration improve dramatically.

Social Interaction

Exercising in a group setting has major benefits. Research has found that those who took part in a group workout had better mental and physical wellbeing than those who did it alone, so next time you head out for a run, take your best mate with you. At The Fitness Truck, we offer group sessions for those who would rather work out with friends, so get in touch with us if you’re interested.

If you feel like your stress levels are getting out of hand, and you can’t seem to quieten the mental noise in your head, try getting in a brisk walk or quick HIIT session before the end of the day. Better yet, grab a friend to exercise with to boost those stress-relieving hormones. Exercise is arguably the best way to reduce anxiety and depression, and to boost your mood. Plus, sustainable exercise brings sustainable mental benefits, so stick with a regular regime to experience these effects for the long-term.

If you’re looking for a helping hand with implementing a regular fitness regime, get in touch with us here at The Fitness Truck. We offer personal, exclusive and corporate weekly sessions to fit everyone’s preferred method and personal schedule.

Not ready yet? Follow us on Instagram to see what our sessions are like.

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