Woman Open ArmsWe all know about the many benefits that exercise has for our body and mind.

With April being Stress Awareness month let’s have a closer look at how exercise can reduce stress and what type of exercise might be most beneficial.

Stress and your health

If you’re constantly under stress for any reason, your body can be exposed to higher than normal levels of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline — and this can affect your health, contributing to a range of problems such as - amongst others - headaches, depression and high blood pressure.

How can exercise help you manage stress?

Although research has found that regular exercise can help reduce stress & anxiety and improve mood, it’s not yet known why. Possible reasons are that regular exercise:

  • Helps boost production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain. Physical activity can help increase levels of the “feel good” chemicals, endorphins and serotonin.
  • Helps distract your mind from anxious thoughts. Whether you’re taking aim at a soccer ball or trying to get a yoga posture right, you’re focused on the activity rather than on your stress.
  • Helps improve sleep. Lack of sleep has been found to contribute to stress and may also increase the risk of depression.
  • Increase your energy levels. With more energy you may feel better.

What exercise can you do to help improve your mood?

It’s important to choose an activity you enjoy that fits easily into your lifestyle, not one that creates more stress.

Research suggests that both aerobic activity (exercise that significantly raises your heart rate, such as jogging cycling and swimming) and resistance exercises (such as weight training or Pilates) may be helpful for depression.

No matter what activity you choose or what intensity you exercise at, every little bit can be beneficial to help improve your mental and physical health.