Let’s face it, we all experience stress at some point in our lives. Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation claim that 74% of Brits polled have felt so stressed over the past year that they’ve been unable to cope* – scary, right?
Now, everyone copes with stress differently – we find grabbing a spoon and digging into a jar of Carb Killa® spread helps. But can exercise relieve symptoms of stress?
“Absolutely!” says Team Grenade® ambassador and specialist osteopath Adam Whatley, “Exercise plays a huge role in the reduction of stress.”
We quizzed Adam on how to use exercise as a stress relief and why there’s so much more to keeping fit and active than having a good body.
What are the benefits of exercise?
“Aerobic exercise is very important for our mind, just as it is for your cardiovascular health. Initially, particularly for beginners, people associate exercise with high physical demand that is undesirable and unpleasant. However, exercise gets more manageable, and believe it or not –more fun!
Regular exercise has many positive Impacts on your body, from increasing strength and stamina, to boosting your metabolism. Furthermore, exercise can also promote relaxation and calm - which clinical studies have shown can reduce stress and even depression. This has been verified in many clinical trials that have successfully been used to reduce stress and anxiety, particularly among athletes.
So, one important message to understand is that exercise is not only good for our muscles and joints, but it has huge psychological benefits that we can all benefit from, especially those with busy lifestyles who claim to ‘be too tired’ or ‘don’t have enough time’. We can see that even mild to moderate exercise, in these cases, is advantageous.
So, how can exercise relieve stress?
So how can aerobic exercise reduce stress? It’s all to do with the impact exercise has on our neurochemistry. Exercise reduces levels of our body's stress hormones, cortisol. Each time we exercise, we produce and release endorphins that are ‘happy’ chemicals that naturally elevate mood. Most people who would have done some forms of exercise would have experienced that ‘buzz’. This is not a simple case of being relieved the exercise is over, but it is these happy hormones that are responsible for the ‘high’ after exercise and for the feelings of relaxation and success following a good workout.
Behavioural factors also have a big impact and it is this that most people seek with exercise. As you become fitter and stronger, you will experience improved levels of self-confidence and self-image. Here you will gain more life control and self-pride. You will become fitter and have better energy levels that will enable you to better handle tasks, succeed in many tasks and better achieve life goals. Furthermore, exercise is also a great way to escape from a mundane, 9-5 routine and build new friends and networks.
Which exercise should I do?
Absolutely any form of exercise will come with many benefits, from walking the dog to participating in track and field events however, it is imperative to find something you enjoy. What works for one person often may not work for another. Some people enjoy doing repetitive classes with friends, some people enjoy independent strength training. If you do not enjoy what you are doing, you’re more likely to give up all together.
Many people find running and walking liberating. I often think of stress as chemical toxicity blocking healthy pathways of our brains. Even a simple 20-minute stroll can clear the mind and reduce this toxicity, while reducing stress. But as mentioned above, some people prefer hardcore, high-intensity workouts that burn stress along with calories. Often these workouts can come with a huge sense of satisfaction. Arnold Schwarzenegger described it as ‘the pump’!
Furthermore, don’t forget to stretch! Stretching exercises help to relax your muscles after a hard workout and will do wonders for your mind too. Yoga is a prime example. Join a class or follow an online workout to reap the benefits of meditation, muscle conditioning and stress reduction.”
How do you deal with stress? If you struggle, take Adam’s advice and throw some activity into your daily lifestyle. You don’t have to climb mount Everest or perfect a clean and jerk but just adding a brisk walk or an exercise class you enjoy into your routine could do wonders for your well being.