Unfortunately, stress is a part of life. Chances are you’re stressed out right now due to an urgent deadline, unpaid bills, or a never-ending to-do list.
When stress comes on without relief, it starts to affect your health. The hormones released by stress can cause high cholesterol, weight gain, and headaches, weaken your immune system, and lead to mental health problems.
Finding healthy ways to ease stress is a must. One of the best ways to combat stress is through exercise. Workouts act as stress busters because they:
- Release endorphins. When you’re working up a sweat, feel-good hormones called “endorphins” are released by your brain. Hence the term “runner’s high”. Note that you don’t have to be a runner or even work out intensely to gain this benefit. Any moderate form of exercise will give you an endorphin boost.
- Improve your mood. When I’m debating skipping a run, I remind myself that I’ll always feel better after a workout. Studies show that exercise also enhances self-esteem and alleviates symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.
- Promote relaxation. Mind-body exercises, like yoga, pilates, and tai chi, are exceptional stress relievers because they give your body a workout while improving your ability to relax.
- Give you “me” time. Working and stay-at-home parents alike rarely have any alone time. Not setting aside time for yourself each day can bring on stress. Exercise gives you that invaluable “me” time.
- Act as a distraction. It’s easy to forget about your to-do list when you’re in the middle of a spinning class or trying to hold crow pose. Plus, exercise usually involves a change of scenery, so you can literally leave your problems behind.
- May double as social support. Everyone knows that a good chat session with a friend acts an instant stress reliever. If you combine exercise time with social time, you get even more stress relief. Join a running club, try group personal training, or ask a coworker to take a walk with you on your lunch hour.
Finding time to be active when you’re already busy may seem impossible. Know that just a moderate amount of physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on stress, though. There are ways to add spurts of exercise to your jam-packed days: Wake up 15 minutes earlier and walk your dog, do crunches and push-ups instead of just lounging in front of the TV, and trade happy hour this week for a walk with your friends.
How do you make time for exercise?