How Exercise Beats Stress

by Sumdima Rai
While stress can keep you focused and concentrated on your work, too much stress can have a negative impact on your health. But there are ways to beat it. Exercise is one such method. Here’s how exercise can reduce stress.

To understand how exercise can help you beat stress, you need to first understand how stress impacts your body. In essence, when you encounter a stressful situation, your brain releases a hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream, which quickens your heartbeat, gives your brain more oxygen, and provides a sudden burst of energy by increasing the glucose in your bloodstream. These temporary elevations usually return to normal once the threat goes away.  

But when you stress excessively, constant elevations in cortisol can increase your risk of several serious health disorders, including heart disease and obesity, according to the University of New Mexico. Since exercise forces the body to deviate temporarily from homeostasis (its natural set point), your exercise is perceived as a stress, which leads to a temporary increase in the production of cortisol. 

Although individual exercise sessions can cause a temporary increase in cortisol production, regular exercise can help prevent health risks due to overexposure to cortisol by lowering the cortisol levels. According to the Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, studies indicate that 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise may help reduce cortisol levels. The University of New Mexico also states that regular exercise can help reduce stress.

Therefore, the more you train, the better your body will be at dealing with stress and decrease the need to release cortisol. This effect is not just limited to exercise; it has been found that people who are generally active show a decreased cortisol response to an emotional crisis than people leading sedentary lives. 

Here are three exercises forms that can help you beat stress.

1. Walking

Even those individuals who are not fit are able to incorporate some walking into their daily routine. Walking for at least 30 minutes every day can be easily achieved. You can do this by walking part of your way to work, a 15-minute stroll post lunch, or a relaxing walk in the evening.

2. Yoga

Newer forms of yoga such as Hatha yoga involve vigorous movements that improve flexibility, coordination, strength, circulation, and posture.

3. Tai Chi

A kind of martial art, tai chi is based on Chinese Taoist philosophy and aims to increase well-being through coordinated breathing, slow, graceful body movements and concentration. People who practice tai chi regularly experience physical and psychosocial benefits. It promotes flexibility, balance control, and improves heart health in patients with chronic health conditions.

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