How Exercise Lowers Stress Levels

Chase Campbell
February 16, 2024
8 minutes

Have you ever felt a runner’s high after exercising? Although commonly associated with running, this refers to feelings of nirvana that are produced after any physical activity. It makes you feel like you can take on the world. This is a prime example of how exercise lowers stress levels.

There is a science behind the ‘runner’s-high phenomenon. Exercise boosts serotonin in the body to produce a sense of euphoria and well-being. It also reduces stress.

Read on to find out more about how exercise lowers stress.

The Various Ways Exercise Lowers Stress

Exercise works to lower stress in various capacities. Here are some to consider:

  • Boosts Serotonin Levels: Exercising increases your brain’s ability to produce endorphins which are “feel good” neurotransmitters. This elicits feelings of well-being and euphoria and reduces stress and depression.
  • Reduces Tension: Stress causes us to tense up leading to aches and pains in the muscles and joints. Exercising stretches these muscles reducing pain and tension.
  • Takes Your Mind Off Your Troubles: When you work out, you focus on repetitive motions of your body which takes your mind off your troubles. It can even have a meditative effect.
  • Helps with Sleep: Exercise raises your core temperature telling your body that it’s time to be awake. This reduces daytime sleepiness, so you don’t nap during the day and are better able to sleep at night. It also prevents weight gain and obesity which can lead to sleep problems. It minimizes stress so you are better able to relax when it’s time for bed.
  • Improves HRV: Working out has been shown to keep heart rate variability (HRV) low. However, this makes for improved stress resiliency and better stress response, and ultimately higher HRV scores once you're rested. It also improves other aspects of health.
  • Improves Blood Flow and Oxygen Circulation: Oxygen demand increases in times of stress. Stress may also reduce blood flow by constricting coronary arteries. Exercise promotes blood flow and sends oxygen throughout the body helping you better deal with stressful situations.
  • Reduces RLS: Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) can be responsible for keeping a person awake at night. While hard exercises, particularly before bed, can worsen RLS, light to moderate exercises during the day can improve symptoms.

Exercise produces immediate mood-boosting effects, but if you exercise regularly, you will feel better in general. The cumulative results of working out will boost physical and mental health.

What are Exercises That are Good for Stress?

While any type of exercise can be beneficial to stress, there are a few that are especially recommended. These include:

  • Walking: Walking is an ideal stress-relieving exercise as it gets your heart pumping. It is low-impact and pleasant. It also brings you out into nature which can further improve your mood.
  • Aerobic Exercise and Weight Training: Both aerobic exercise and weight training increase heart rate and release feel-good hormones throughout the body. It’s best to do a combination of both as they provide several physical and mental health benefits.
  • Low-Impact Exercises: Low-impact exercises like yoga and Pilates improve blood flow to parts of the body that tend to hold tension, such as the neck and shoulders. They also emphasize stretching and controlled breathing which is great for stress relief.

Keep Exercise Non-Stressful

Exercise should work to relieve stress, not make it worse. Here are some ways to ensure it benefits your mental health:

  • Keep Goals Realistic: If you focus on reaching unattainable goals or schedule workouts that don’t fit into your schedule, it will do more harm than good. Find the right balance and focus on improving wellness rather than losing weight.
  • Workout with a Friend: In addition to making exercise more fun, working out with a friend will keep you accountable so you are less likely to miss workouts.
  • Find an Activity You Enjoy: Find an exercise you enjoy. If you choose one you don’t like to do, you will be more likely to skip it. It will also have negative mental effects.
  • Use Tech Tools: Tech tools track your progress so you can feel a sense of accomplishment when reaching your goals. Some will also let you connect with others on social media adding a fun aspect to your workouts.

How Hanu Health Can Help

Exercise is a great way to keep stress under control. You can get an even better handle on your stress if you combine working out with the Hanu Health app.

Stress can negatively affect the quality of life. A combination of lifestyle changes and technology will help you get a handle on it. Integrate working out, the Hanu Health app, and other healthy activities to reach your emotional goals.