In our fast-paced world of today, it is extremely common to feel physically and mentally stressed. Whether you are a student battling through exams, a young professional trying to work your way up the ladder, or a parent trying to support your family, stress is a constant.
One of the most underrated remedies for stress is exercise. A lot of people think this is a myth, but in fact, it has been quantitatively proven with hard science. For example, it has been shown that aerobic exercise actually reduces circulating levels of stress hormones (e.g. adrenalin and cortisol).
Simultaneously, aerobic exercise can also increase some stress-relieving hormones, such as endorphins. You may have heard of endorphins before. These are neurochemicals that are naturally released when you are happy and relaxed, and exercise promotes the release of these hormones, ultimately increasing happiness and reducing stress.
How is Exercise Relaxing?
Well, it’s not really. Especially if you are just starting out or have taken a lot of time off any sort of workouts recently. Even when you are in a routine, the fact that it can be physically demanding is not everyone’s idea of relaxing. However, please keep in mind it’s not just the exercise itself that may be relaxing, it is the after-effects of the exercise that are beneficial.
Indirect Stress Reduction by Exercise
In addition to the biochemical effects that are a direct result of exercise, there are also many indirect benefits that some people actually find the most important. For example, people often report that a greater sense of relaxation can often lead to clear mind. I personally agree with this, and I actually find it helps me be more productive (and happy) at work.
Similarly, it is well known that exercise can improve your physical appearance. Although we definitely prioritize health outcomes, a better appearance can help boost your confidence. Many people don’t realize they have all the existing tools to succeed at their life goals until they develop the confidence to “go for it”. Whether it’s the confidence to make another positive lifestyle change, request a raise in salary, attempt a new technique at work, or become more socially active, confidence can really facilitate health and wellness.
What About Resistance Training?
We have talked a lot about how aerobic exercise promotes stress reduction, but what about lifting weights? Resistance training is definitely good for you and can for sure help reduce levels of stress, just not always to the same extent as aerobic training (e.g. running or cycling).
That being said, you can structure your resistance training in a manner that naturally combines aerobic training. Usually this is accomplished with multi-joint exercises, circuit training, incorporating some sort of aerobic activity, or simply performing more repetitions at a lower weight.
Simply put, exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. This has been proven scientifically, but is often overlooked. If you find yourself feeling stressed, want to make a lifestyle change that benefits your health, and perhaps even trim down a little bit, then we strongly encourage you to consider adding exercise to your daily or weekly routine. Even a little bit can go a long way!