Working Out to Relieve Stress

happy woman working out at home

Stressed out? You’re not alone.

Everyone experiences stress at one time or another, and stress affects all of us in different ways. But this much is true for everyone: Regular exercise reduces the harmful effects of stress.

But let’s start with this question:

What effect can chronic stress have on your health?

Stress sets off a chain of events. The body reacts to it by releasing a hormone, adrenaline, that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. When stress is constant (chronic), your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time.

Chronic stress can take a physical toll on you. It can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable physical symptoms like headache and stomach problems. Stress affects the body in many ways.

Can stress lead to anxiety or depression?

Yes. Stress can affect the body and mind.

First instance, you may have physical signs (such as headaches, tense or sore muscles, or trouble sleeping), emotional signs (such as feeling anxious or depressed), or both. Stress can make you feel cranky, forgetful or out of control.

And the mental health implications of stress may be felt acutely by some groups, who are already more at risk for anxiety or depression. Women, for instance, are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to men. And only one in three African Americans who needs mental health treatment receives it.

There are lots of reasons to manage stress – especially the emotional and mental health benefits of dealing with stress.

Does chronic stress cause high blood pressure or heart disease?

The link between stress and cardiovascular disease is not clear, but it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure and heart disease. While the exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown, contributing factors include being overweight, eating too much sodium (salt), lack of physical activity and drinking too much alcohol.

How can being more active help?

Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, can improve your quality of life and relieve stress, tension, anxiety and depression. You may notice a “feel good” sensation immediately following your workout, and also see an improvement in overall well-being over time as physical activity becomes a regular part of your life.

Moving more can:

  • release stress and calm you
  • improve your mood and help you think clearly
  • keep your mind off cigarettes if you’re trying to quit
  • help control your appetite
  • help you lose weight if you’re overweight, or stay at a healthy weight
  • give you more energy and stamina
  • lower your blood pressure
  • increase your “good” HDL cholesterol level
  • reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke
  • help control blood sugar by improving how your body uses insulin
  • improve your quality of sleep
  • help you feel better about how you look

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