ZOZOFIT understands that managing day-to-day stress is important in the lives of everyone, because we all experience stress. It’s ubiquitous because it can come from so many facets of our lives. We often talk about work stress, but there’s also the stress of commuting, parenting, education, family life, health, and even planning a relaxing vacation — just to name a few. But once you know how working out can improve your stress levels, you’ll be able to leverage that knowledge to cultivate a better, less stressful life.
How Stress Impacts the Body
First, it’s important to remember that stress is our body’s natural response to situations in which we feel threatened, out-of-control, or in danger. Stress is inherently bad, but prolonged, chronic stress (especially without any kind of treatment) can have huge impacts on our mental health.
But stress doesn’t just impact our mental health, it can impact our physical health, too. Often, stress activates our fight-or-flight response, which releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones have huge impacts because they are our body’s response to danger, but in modern life, the “danger” may not be out to kill us! Regardless of what the danger is, though, the stress response can see us suffering from lack of sleep, digestive issues, and tense and tight muscles. Overtime, if we don’t do anything about our stress it will decrease our quality of life and have lasting impacts on our health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, untreated chronic stress can lead to heart disease, depression, digestive problems, anxiety, weight gain, trouble focusing, weight gain, headaches, and muscle tension and soreness.
When you begin to experience an unhealthy amount of stress, it’s time to take action — even if it seems like your efforts will be futile.
Exercise Can Decrease Stress
Thankfully, exercise can improve your stress levels, which means that it is an affordable, accessible option for anyone dealing with chronic stress.
When you exercise, the body’s levels of stress hormones (like the aforementioned adrenaline and cortisol) reduce, providing ease to your mind and body. This helps you exit that fight-or-flight response and get back to what feels like even footing. But exercise isn’t only beneficial because it reduces these stress hormones. It’s also beneficial because it releases different hormones!
You might have heard of endorphins. Endorphins are an important neurochemical your body releases in response to feelings of stress, but endorphins are also released during exercise which means exercise boosts your endorphin production!
In the body, endorphins relieve pain and help you feel better mentally. Runners sometimes experience a “runner’s high,” which is a feeling of bliss after intense exercise. During this state, runners can often feel invincible, which is especially helpful on a long distance run.
Not only does the release of endorphins decrease stress, but movement and exercise can improve digestion (that’s why it’s recommended you take a walk after a large meal) and help with sleep!
Workouts to Improve Stress Levels
If you’re experiencing stress, the good news is that any workout can help you decrease your stress and start feeling better. To decide what you want to do, you really need to think about what’s accessible to you.
In states of stress — and especially in those with anxiety disorders and clinical depression — getting started can be half the battle. And you want to make sure you’re not creating more stress for yourself, because that would defeat the purpose of the exercise! When you’re really stressed, thinking about fitness goals or having to do a specific kind of workout can just exacerbate your stress and make it harder to get started and follow through with your fitness.
Decreasing your stress isn’t about high performance or even the best workout you’ve had. It’s about improving your mental health so you can get into an easeful mindset and start feeling better.
Sometimes you just need an easy workout to get you started in producing those endorphins.
Exercise like walking is something that most people can do. Just lace up some shoes (or put on some comfortable walking sandals) and head outside. Walks don’t have to be long to be effective — and you don’t need to power walk either. Just 30 minutes will do the trick. While being outside in nature can have an even greater effect on your mental health, walking on the treadmill and watching your favorite comedy is a great option, too.
You might also consider trying yoga. Most forms of yoga link breath and movement, which helps you have something to focus on other than your racing thoughts. Instructors (whether in-person, virtual, or AI) will also guide you through relaxation and prompt you to release tension in your muscles. Through yoga, you’ll gain an awareness of your body that’s hard to replicate in other kinds of activity and be introduced to meditation, which can be a great way to alleviate stress everyday.
Sometimes you need a more intense workout. It can feel good to exhaust your muscles and leave it all on the court, so to speak.
When choosing something more intense, think about the kinds of workouts you like to do or have enjoyed in the past, especially if it’s been a while since you laced up your sneakers and got moving. Running, weight lifting, swimming, and HIIT training are all great options that will work your body, produce endorphins, and have you feeling less stressed afterward.
Why should we care about our stress levels?
Our fitness isn’t just related to physical fitness. We also need to think about our mental wellness. Our brain is with us everyday and if we’re not taking care of ourselves mentally, we’ll see the consequences.
In recent years, the stigma around mental health has been lessening so it’s less taboo to talk about what we’re experiencing. By exercising and taking care of our mental health, we’ll be more adept to tackle life’s challenges, improve our mood and self-esteem, and even better our relationships!
ZOZOFIT and Mental Health
Keeping track of your successes, fitness or otherwise, is another important component to increasing the value we feel about ourselves.