If a slimmer figure and more energy aren’t enough to inspire you to squeeze in a workout, perhaps another big exercise benefit will motivate you: stress reduction. Exercise reduces stress in a number of ways, says Jasmin Theard, ACSM HFS, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. In addition to promoting overall wellness, physical activity can:
1. Enhance your mood
“Exercise can serve as a great mood enhancer,” says Theard. “It releases feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for what people refer to as ‘runner’s high.’ The neat thing about endorphins is that other forms of exercise can create the same response, so you can essentially have ‘hiker’s high’ or ‘yoga high,’ too.”
2. Serve as a form of meditation
Although it can sometimes feel like the exact opposite, working out can serve as a form of meditation. “Because exercise is usually rhythmic and you are concentrating on the movement of your body, exercise serves as a great distraction from your daily worries,” she says.
3. Boost your self-confidence
“Exercise also improves your physique, which can lead to increased self-confidence,” says Theard.
4. Improve mental health and sleep better
Studies have shown that fitness can help decrease symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. “Exercise for stress management creates a domino effect,” she explains. “Depression and anxiety can lead to a lack of sleep, but when symptoms are managed, you can sleep better.”
Finding a workout you love
While physical activity is non-negotiable if you want to reduce stress, the good news is you can choose your favorite form — almost all workouts are beneficial in some way.
“My advice is to choose an exercise you enjoy,” says Theard. “They all generate similar effects. If you have a disdain for walking on a treadmill, that disdain may negate any benefits you get from an endorphin release.”
For more fitness tips, check out our Movement page.