Can exercise really help with your stress levels? But I thought that exercise was a stressor, so how does a stressor help a stressor?
I have gotten asked this question many times before. Enough that I thought I should do an IGTV and YouTube video that talked about stress and how exercise can affect it positively.
Stress is everywhere and how we perceive and cope with that stress also plays a big role on our health.
For example, riding a rollercoaster can be a positive or negative stress depending on if you love the thrill or if you’re terrified of them.
And yes, it is true... Exercise is another stressor. Stress has to occur to the body in order for you to be able to achieve you fitness and health goals (i.e. lose weight, build muscle mass, get faster, etc.). Without the physiological and mechanical stress placed on the muscles, change can not occur within the body. But there is also more to exercise and it's relationship as a "stressor."
Chronic stress in our lives (longer than 3 months) can have negative effects on our health such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and increase of mental health symptoms.
We can try to manage our stress through different coping styles/mechanisms. One being maladaptive and the other adaptive. The adaptive coping approach has been shown to be helpful in a positive way of managing stress and the effects it has on the body. One of those mechanisms is exercise.
The researchers looked at several research studies and analyzed the findings of the conducted work. Exercise programs were given to firefighters, the workplace, sedentary young adults, the elderly, and students all of which were included in this synthesis.
Even though the exercise programs differed from each group in length and type of exercise there were still findings that exercise was beneficial both physiologically and psychologically.
There are a few theories as to how exercise reduces stress. There hasn't been any concrete explanation to point the finger at one single reason why exercise reduces our stress but the outcomes have been present across the board in many studies. Some of the theories as to why include:
> Trying to achieve a challenge or have growth within oneself.
> Socially able to engage in exercise with others & have something to look forward to
> There are biological responses that occur that make you feel good and happy
> It can serve as a distraction from the negatives in your life
So what does this mean for you or I ?
It means that exercise can be a great way to reduce your stress. It can improve your mental health symptoms (such as depression or anxiety) as well as lowering blood pressure and heart rate. But it can also serve as a source to be distracted from your stressors, be challenged to try something new to master, or even be a social event that can allow you to interact with others.
Exercise has many benefits to our health and decreasing our stress is just one of them.
Be sure to find exercise that you enjoy or are eager to master. This will help for adherence in the long run.
Do you workout to relieve your stress? What kind of exercise do you do that makes you feel it all melt away?? Comment below.
Below are info graphs that I created based off of the research article I looked at regarding this topic. Additionally, I have added the YouTube video below the info graphs. Feel free to look through them as they support this blog post!
Sharon-David, Hilla & Tenenbaum, Gershon. (2017). The Effectiveness of Exercise Interventions on Coping with Stress: Research Synthesis. Studies in Sport Humanities. 22. 19-29. 10.5604/01.3001.0012.6520.