The Science Behind Stress and Exercise

happy, stress-free woman running at sunrise

These are uncertain times, and staying cooped up in our homes only serves to exacerbate any added stress we may be feeling. Disrupted daily routines (and always-accessible beds and pantries) mean that we may find ourselves sleeping too much or too little, watching too much television or bingeing on comfort food. If unhealthy habits are finding themselves predominant in your life, consider adding exercise to manage your stress and reintroduce regularity into your day!

Stress sets off a chain of biomolecular events in your body that ultimately lead to adverse health effects and reduced mental and emotional clarity. A stressful thought or situation triggers your hypothalamus to release adrenaline and cortisol, which travel through your body and begin a “fight or flight” response. This redirects blood from non-essential organs, such as your brain, digestive tract and reproductive organs, to your muscles, heart and other organs important for fight or flight. While this response is great if you’re being chased by a tiger, chronic stress has a host of negative physical outcomes, including reduced sex drive, digestion issues and depression.

Exercise nips this process in the bud. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, a natural painkiller that calms your stress response. Studies have found that even 5-10 minutes of moderate exercise per day improves mood, aids better-quality sleep and reduces the harmful effects of chronic stress. It’s important to keep up a daily exercise routine in order to feel like your best self and stay productive in difficult times!

 

Browse our WELLNESS blog for more tips on staying active, and remember that stress-reducing exercise can be any intensity, from a 90-minute HIIT workout to a walk around the block!

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