Physical activity is good for more than just building strength or losing weight, aerobic exercise and stress management go hand in hand. It has a number of benefits, backed by science, including mental health improvements, stress relief, and even relaxation responses that can reduce physical symptoms. Here, we’ll explore the benefits of using physical exercise as a mode of stress management.
The Need For Low Cost Stress Relief
Exercise as a form of stress management can’t be overlooked–especially right now. According to a survey from the CDC, an estimated 40 percent of U.S. adults have experienced poor mental health since the start of the pandemic. It’s no surprise that more and more people are experiencing a higher stress level than before. Health concerns, income loss, social distance, racial injustice, and political tensions are forms of acute stress that started in 2020 and are turning into chronic stress. Add that on top of an already full plate with family obligations, homeschooling, work, and more, and it’s no wonder the average American stress level is skyrocketing.
And limited access to fitness centers combined with more time at home is becoming problematic physical and mental health. In fact, more than 50 percent of Americans currently work out less than usual, according to a recent survey. Without the outlet of regular physical activity, stress can be harder to manage because aerobic exercise is a critical tool for stress management.
The good news is you don’t need a gym to reap the benefits of aerobic exercise for managing stress. You can run outside or use on-demand workout platforms to get your body moving and work the stress out. Additionally, at home exercises require just a little creativity and a small bit of space.
Here are four reasons to start moving your body, especially as we continue through high stress times, even if you can’t access a gym. With less stress, your day-to-day may induce less anxiety, and those unexpected turns of events will be even easier to handle.
Physical Activity And Anxiety & Depression
Physical activities release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins into the bloodstream, which transmit pleasure signals to the brain. This is why people who exercise regularly often describe the feeling they get post-workout or post-run as a natural “high.”
Research also shows that exercise can enhance the mood state of those with anxiety, depression, and other stress-related mental health issues. For example, study participants who increased their exercise reported a boost in well-being and overall mood, as well as a decrease in both tiredness and anxiety, as reported by Frontiers in Psychology. Whether you’re having a bad day or not, you can reap the good-mood benefits of physical activity to improve your mental well being.
Exercise And Brain Function
When high stress feels overwhelming, it can often lead to “brain fog,” or the inability to focus, recall, and think clearly. Aerobic exercise should be the first line of defense when this happens because it increases circulation to the brain, calms inflammation, lowers stress hormones, and strengthens neuroplasticity, according to The Cleveland Clinic.
Moderate aerobic exercise can improve a number of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and critical thinking. Evidence also indicates that regular exercise could mitigate the risks of dementia as the brain starts to age. Study authors explain that 20 to 30 minutes per session, or as long as it takes to sustainably and consistently increase your heart rate and need for oxygen, can be sufficient.
Use aerobic exercise as an outlet when work is challenging to complete. A 20- to 30-minute run may be all you need to get back into the rhythm and complete your job.
Keep Reading: Benefits of Bodyweight Training: You Can Gain Muscle
Aerobic Exercise Can Ease Chronic Symptoms
According to the experts at the Institute for Chronic Pain, individuals with chronic pain (such as low back pain or upper neck tension) often notice their symptoms flare up in times of stress.
What's more, they explain that stress is often the initial cause of the pain:
“In fact, stress has a much more significant role in the production of pain than simply making it worse. The development of pain itself, from acute injuries or illness to the long-term maintenance of chronic pain, incorporates what we call the stress response. In other words, were it not for our stress response, we would not have pain as we know it.”
Aerobic exercise offers a number of physical benefits to manage this pain, suggests a study by Sports Medicine and Health Science. Exercise promotes muscle and bone density, regulates insulin, elevates heart and lung capacity, and boosts immune function, all of which helps mitigate your pain during times of stress. This study also found that aerobic exercise can reduce cancer mortality rates by 7 to 17 percent.
The benefits of aerobic exercise cannot be overlooked if you’re in pain or the pain is worsening from stress. Find the cardio style you like most to keep pain at bay at all times—when you’re stressed and otherwise.
Exercise And Resilience
Strong mental and emotional resilience makes it easier to adapt and ultimately thrive during high stress circumstances. This can be difficult during times like 2020, and beyond when it feels like everyone is dealing with one crisis after another. According to Frontiers in Psychology, those who participate in aerobic exercise consistently tend to be more resilient and, therefore, less reactive to stress than their sedentary counterparts.
Frontiers explains that exercise activates the same responses as acute stress—increased heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol, and mental alertness. As a result, active people build more of a tolerance to those sensations in the body, which makes them less susceptible to the adverse impacts of stress.
This is why maintaining a consistent fitness routine is critical to repairing the benefits of aerobic exercise. The more you prioritize that time for your body, the easier it will be to manage any and all stress as it arises.
Keep Reading: Why Should You Be Physically Active?
Aerobic Exercise And Stress Management
The benefits of regular aerobic exercise for managing stress cannot be overstated. Encourage your clients to add more aerobic fitness to their current workout routine and make time for more aerobic exercise yourself. The good news is, you can make sure your clients are managing their stress with aerobic exercise, whether you’re training in a gym or online. Don’t overlook this critical element of fitness as a trainer and fitness enthusiast.
It’s amazing to know the impacts of regular exercise extend beyond just physical health and fitness. Which is why helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle is a rewarding career. Fitness and nutrition coaches have evolved to look at clients’ lives in a holistic way, including impacts of exercise on stress like addressed here. A degree exercise science qualifies you to do just that. Fitness coaches, nutrition coaches, and others in this type of profession have benefits that most people only dream of. When you choose one of these jobs you’ll get some (if not all) of these perks:
- The ability to take your own fitness to the next level
- Learn about something you love
- Help others lose weight and make major life changes
- Increase someone’s lifespan
- Help athletes perform their best
- Choose your own hours
- Make six figures
- Run your own business
As you can see, it’s pretty enticing to learn more about this type of study. Lionel University provides exercise science degree programs that can help you land a job in the fitness and wellness industry. You can earn an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree at Lionel. What’s even better is, included in your program, you’ll earn a personal training certification and other fitness certifications and specializations early on. This makes it easy for you to earn a living in the fitness space and test the waters. You’ll be able to figure out exactly what your long-term career goals are.
Find out why other students choose Lionel and love it. You can get financial aid to make it an easier transition. And, the courses are all online. This means you can earn your degree from home, and on your own time. It’s the best way to learn when you get to choose. Furthermore, the reputation of Lionel is elite. The founders of Lionel are pioneers in the fitness space and have prestigious backgrounds. This means you’ll be learning from the best and most respected program available.