Relieving Stress By Exercise

Exercise is no doubt an effective way to relieve stress. This is not only a common sense belief. Many scientific researches support this idea. It is said that exercise helps the brain to produce several biochemicals in the body that help lessen stress. For instance, marathon runners experience an "endorphin high," which is a result of marathon workouts. Endorphin high happens when the brain releases an opiate-like substance. The body, to reduce pain, naturally produces this substance. In rare instances, this can also lead to a sense of euphoria, or a state of great happiness.

Aside from endorphin, there are other mood elevators in the form of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These are neuro-transmitters that send pain signals to the brain, and they are also believed to lift the mood. However, their positive effects are more evident when they are at very low levels. Otherwise, depression, anxiety and at times, increased aggression are evident.

Exercise aids in reducing stress by producing these biochemicals while simultaneously reducing the production of biochemicals created by stress. The sympathetic nervous system produces cortisol and certain hormones when a person is experiencing stress. Cortisol and certain hormones can have adverse effects on the blood vessels when left unchanged in the blood stream. Scarring, which leads to narrowing of the arteries, is the common result of the continuous production of cortisol.

Doing regular workout helps to solve this problem in two ways. These compounds get used up when a person works out. The compounds are broken down into harmless elements and are eliminated from the body in the form of urine or sweat. At the same time, exercising strengthens the blood vessels and makes them more elastic. When a person develops stronger blood vessels, it will be easier for this person to resist the effects of any stress-produced and unused chemicals in the body.

In addition, since stress normally causes tensed muscles in the neck, shoulder and calve areas, exercise helps loosen up the muscles during the entire workout period. Exercise also strengthens the muscles and infuses them with fresh and highly oxygenated blood. Because exercise lowers the bad cholesterol and triglycerides contents in the blood, the circulatory system improves as well.

Aside from physical benefits, exercise also has a number of psychological benefits for eliminating stress. For one, exercise diverts the attention from the stressors. You need not dwell on what is troubling you because you have better things to do. A fight with your partner this morning or your boss' unfair treatment would not bother you much when you are busy working out at the gym.

The psychological effects of exercise also provide a homeostasis effect in the mind. Homeostasis is a feedback mechanism in the body that helps it bounce back to an equilibrium state. Doing heavy workout takes the mind away from problems, giving the mind time to continue functioning without pressuring it more.

Regular exercise helps you become physically fit and improves your overall health. This, in turn, makes you feel good about yourself. It makes you more confident. At the same time, it also makes you realize your efforts to achieve something, thus, helping you overcome feelings of helplessness, which usually results to stress.

Walking is a good form of exercise. However, working out for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week is better. Doing this, you will notice a significant change in your mood and your stress level will essentially decrease.