With long commutes, busy lives and urgent work emails just a notification away, it's no wonder most people walk around in a chronic state of stress.
Symptoms of this stress can include aches and pains, tension headaches, stomach problems, irritability and an all-around melancholy. Sound like you?
Luckily, there's an easy antidote to daily stress. Not only is it all-natural, effective and cost-efficient, you can do it pretty much anywhere. Yep, we're talking about exercise. Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold. It's one of the best universal remedies out there, and if you're not making it a part of your daily routine, you're really missing out.
Here are the main ways exercise and stress-relief are connected.
Interacting Body Systems1 of 8
When you're in a state of stress, each of your body systems (cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, muscular, etc.) need to interact seamlessly for you to manage the stress appropriately. Exercise actually helps these body systems practice this interaction in a way that is healthy.
Think about it. As you go for a run around the block, you're engaging not only your muscular system, but also your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. They are learning to communicate with one another. When a work-related stressor comes up later in the week, your body will be better equipped to handle it.
Increased Endorphins2 of 8
You've probably heard the hype around endorphins and for good reason. Endorphins are your body's natural pain killers and when released, they give you a noticeable "high."
Long periods of moderate to high intensity exercise increase the release of endorphins, which is why you'll often feel a lift in your spirits after a workout, leaving you less likely to succumb to stress.
Fight or Flight3 of 8
Fight or flight is your natural, evolutionarily-programmed reaction to any stressful situation. The problem, however, is that much of today's stress doesn't require either physical fighting or running, but your body still provides the chemicals for it. This can leave you feel antsy and stressed out.
The best and most logical way to relieve this feeling is to actually do some exercise. Sprint it out, lift weights or go for a long bike ride. It's how your body was meant to respond.
Rhythm and Flow4 of 8
Some exercise, like running, cycling or lifting, lets you get into a rhythm. That rhythmic flow of a repeating action relaxes your mind. Ever hear a runner say they're heading out for a quick jog to clear their head? That's what they mean.
This type of zoning out helps you relax and find your equilibrium again after a stressful day.
Human Interaction5 of 8
Not everyone chooses to exercise solo. Attending a spin class, joining a workout bootcamp or going on a group run not only helps you get your daily sweat in, but also lets you interact with others who are probably experiencing the similar stress of modern-day life.
This human interaction will help you release some of the negativity that is associated with stress and will make you feel less alone in your problems.
Better Sleep6 of 8
Ever felt so stressed out you couldn't sleep? This lack of shut eye often leads to a vicious cycle, increasing your stress and making it even harder to catch up on sleep the next night.
Exercise not only helps break that cycle by better enabling you to handle stress in the first place, it also helps you feel tired at night so you can more quickly fall asleep without all the tossing and turning.
An Organized Life7 of 8
Stress can be brought on by a lack of organization and planning, whether it's in your work life or home life. Following a workout plan, where you set regular, weekly goals and ultimately have a sense of achievement, will help you transfer those skills to other areas.
And if your stress isn't caused by scheduling, just knowing that you have a stress-busting workout on your calendar a few times a week will help put your mind at ease.