Limitations Of The Literature: Methodological Considerations
Several limitations in the stress literature have been discerned by this review, particularly as identified by the quality assessment rating . The most obvious is the limited amount of experimental evidence. The use of control groups should be utilized, as changes in PA are frequently due to other factors, such as a change in seasons . Examination and holiday stressors coincide with more averse weather in many latitudes, which is perhaps the greatest limitation in this area of research. Cross-sectional studies cannot provide indication of the direction of influence. Does stress impact exercise directly, or do inactive individuals self-select more stressful environments ? Such a possibility implies that other factors may be responsible for the association. Nevertheless, more than 50 studies in this review utilized a prospective design, which allays some concern.
How Exercise Promotes Positive Well
Exercise can also be used to enhance well-being in people who already feel mentally healthy. Increased physical activity has been found to enhance mood, improve energy levels, and promote quality sleep.
There are several reasons why physical activity can be good for psychological well-being:
Go Ahead And Stress Bake
Baking checks so many stress-reduction boxes: It can be a sensory experience it is a project that requires planning, concentration, and mindfulness, which activates your brain and if you enjoy it, its fun. Kate Merker, Good Housekeepings Chief Food Director, loves this amazing blueberry sweet roll recipe, but if youve had enough sugar, move on to a healthy pizza recipe. It feels comforting and you can literally put anything on top of pizza dough, she says. My kids help shape the dough, which is just fun, and they get a kick out of me twirling it in the air. And if youre stressed by the fact that no eats the same thing in your house? Everyone can pick and choose their own topping, Merker adds.
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How Can I Decide What Types Of Exercise To Do
Before you begin an exercise program for depression, here are some questions you should consider:
- What physical activities do I enjoy?
- Do I prefer group or individual activities?
- What programs best fit my schedule?
- Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of exercise?
- What goals do I have in mind?
Getting Started With Exercise When You Have A Mental Health Issue
Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. But when you feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have another mental health problem, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you cant bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park.
Start small. When youre under the cloud of anxiety or depression and havent exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set achievable goals and build up from there.
Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If youve never exercised before or dont know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorderas well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
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How Exercise Combats Stress
It might seem counterintuitive, but even the most rigorous workouts can be relaxing. Thats because exercise releases endorphins. These are feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure and the negation of pain. And the rush of endorphins doesnt stop as soon as your workout is over.
The American Council on Exercise says that one exercise sessioneven one as short as 20 minutescan generate up to two hours of relaxation response that improves your mood and leaves you feeling calm. And, while in-office workouts might be great time savers, ACE suggests getting outdoors or finding another neutral location, like your local gym, so that you can exercise in a stress-free environment.
Exercising to reduce work-related stress can certainly be helpful at the office. The ADAA notes that exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness. Additionally, its effective at easing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. So, if stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate at work, exercise is there to pick you back up.
Exercise As A Stressor
The above discussion should impress upon the clinician and researcher that exercise is itself a mental and physical stressor . In short, the stress of exercise may in some circumstances interact with psychological stress to dampen PA behavior. Indeed, exercise might by typified as a self-inflicted stressor, often intentionally undertaken with a goal of attaining health and fitness. While such experiences are generally considered adaptive, not all outcomes are positive in nature. From a physical standpoint, for instance, there is always risk of injury , which is magnified under conditions of stress and may result in missed exercise participation. Exercise undertaken in unaccustomed volumes can elevate glucocorticoids and stunt physical processes, such as neurogenesis . Ultimately, at very high levels exercise may result in deleterious outcomes, such as unexplained underperformance syndrome. This outcome may be exacerbated by the experience of mental stressors and, likewise, may result in additional sensations of stress . Indeed, increased exercise over a period of days or weeks can contribute to negative shifts in ones mood and increased perceived stress . A recent study found that poor muscular recovery was associated with self reports of chronic stress . As sensations related to muscle damage likely result in impaired PA , it is possible that stress may affect exercise behavior by magnifying unpleasant sensations associated with exercise.
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Gives A Person A Break From Stress
Another theory is called the time-out hypothesis. This posits that exercise reduces stress by providing a break from it. For example, a person may lower their stress levels at work by going for a brisk walk on their lunch break.
Researchers in an older 1998 study tested the time-out hypothesis in a small group of females with anxiety and found that exercising caused lower anxiety levels.
A 2021 study of high school students had similar findings. Researchers found that a 10-minute exercise break during a stressful exam week resulted in lower stress levels and improved cognitive function.
Many studies on exercise for stress relief focus on aerobic activity. This does not mean that other types of exercise, such as weight training, are not effective they are just less widely studied.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , people should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.
People who experience work-related stress may wish to divide their daily exercise into shorter sessions. They can perform these before work, during a lunch break, or after work.
Many physical activities fall into the category of aerobic exercise, but the suggests brisk walking. A person can choose another activity they enjoy, such as:
The authors stated that exercise may aid in treating anxiety disorders through a broad spectrum of benefits.
When Will I Start To See The Mental Health Benefits Of Physical Exercise
You may feel an improved mood and euphoric feeling immediately after you exercise, especially if youre engaging in moderate activity. You may also experience improved cognitive abilities, like memory, problem-solving skills, and decision-making ability, after just one session. Over time, these positive effects should continue to build, and you may notice improvements as soon as six weeks after starting regular exercise.
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Reaping The Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise Is Easier Than You Think
You dont need to devote hours out of your busy day to train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile to reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. Just 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week is enough. And even that can be broken down into two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions if thats easier.
Dont Be Afraid To Get Active
If you have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise program, take it gradually. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition. It’s best to start slowly with something you enjoy, like taking walks or riding a bicycle. Scientific evidence strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.
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Which Exercise Is Best For Stress
The best exercise for stress is the one youre most likely to do. Do groups light you up? If yes, perhaps a gym class or running club is right for you.
If you find yourself easily turned off by competition or social banter, you may find walking alone, or a solo aerobics routine is more your style.
Here are some physical fitness activities that may relieve your stress.
Stress Management Through Physical Activity
For many people, an exercise routine builds self-esteem. You may find satisfaction from going to the gym or developing creative ways to exercise indoors.
Feeling good about how you handle exercise may make it easier to take other precautions against stress, including sleeping well or taking breaks from work.
A 2021 meta-analysis found evidence that exercise improves someones perceived sleep quality and lessens insomnia severity in adults. Also, a 2020 review concluded that strength training helps with the pain of tension-type headaches and aerobic training helps reduce the severity of migraine headaches.
Overall, exercise might help reduce the severity of several triggers for stress, including poor sleep and headaches. Exercise may even curb your symptoms of stress and make you more likely to handle new stress better.
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The Impact Of Physical Activity On Stress
One of the most eminent stressors in students lives is academic stress .1 Students report experiencing AS at predictable times each semester with the greatest extent at the end of a semester, resulting from taking and studying for exams, grade competition and the large amount of time invested in studying.25
The effectiveness of AS as a psychosocial stressor is well established regarding repercussions on physiological and psychological health.6 It has been shown that AS has negative implications on physiological health variables, such as immune functions 7 and neuroendocrine functions .8 Furthermore, in AS periods, different effects on psychological parameters can be detected, such as increased anxiety,9 poor sleep quality,10 a negative effect on well-being,11 increased negative affectivity12 and increases in the prevalence of depressive symptoms.13 Based on these findings, it can be assumed that times of high AS have a negative impact on health-related physiological and psychological outcomes.
Although participants enrolled in different faculties, most of them were psychology students . They, however, were able to gain participation credits by providing their code after study termination.
Task and procedure
Positive and negative affect
For all dependent variables, results are discussed in more detail in the following section.
Why Does Exercise Make Us Feel Better Mentally
Often, people who exercise regularly do it simply because it makes them feel good. Exercise can boost your mood, concentration and alertness. It can even help give you a positive outlook on life.
The link between exercise and mental health is complicated. Inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental illness, for example. But there are lots of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health, such as:
- The levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise.
- Regular exercise can help you sleep better. And good sleep helps you manage your mood.
- Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel.
- Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
- It offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others.
- Exercise increases your energy levels.
- Physical activity can be an outlet for your frustrations.
- Exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps you feel more relaxed.
The physical benefits of exercise are also important for people with mental illness. It improves your cardiovascular health and overall physical health. This is important because people with mental health issues are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.
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How To Use Exercise As Your Stress Relief
Many people who wonder if exercise relieves stress are concerned that they dont have time to add a major exercise routine to their already-busy schedule. Theres good news, though.
You dont need to make the time to train to run a marathon or commit to hours at the gym if youre hoping to incorporate regular exercise into your daily life. For maximum health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends exercising just 5 times a week, and believe it or not, even a simple 30-minute walk can do the trick.
Exercise does not have to be strenuous in order to have an impact. Regular and consistent movement can be the key to unlocking a very sustainable effort that you learn to love and like any new habit or routine, small steps can amount to big change. Consider inserting cumulative exercise, without a rigid framework, to take the pressure off of executing a perfect plan. When you start to crave it, its only a matter of time before your mind and body cant live without the designated time for stress relief.
Below are some simple, easy-to-use tips that can help you make even moderate exercise a part of your daily life to combat stress and anxiety.
Relationship Of Stress To Health Outcomes And Behavior
Psychological stress has a deleterious effect on a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes with accumulating evidence that health practices/maladaptive behaviors may mediate these relationships . Stress has been strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease and the incidence of acute myocardial infarctions . Those under high stress are less likely to survive cardiac events . Alterations in the immune system by stress are well-established , and those who report high levels of stress are more likely to become infected . The nervous system is also compromised during times of undue stress . Stress is associated with a host of mental symptoms as well, including cognitive dysfunction, dementia , and excessive fatigue . While stress may have a direct effect on health , indirect routes toward maladaptation also likely exist . For instance, stress is related to declining physical function over time and obesity , which contributes to cardiovascular disease. Another likely factor is impaired health/lifestyle practices and maladaptive behaviors, such as decreased exercise and PA and increased sedentarianism . Furthermore, delays in recovery from exercise and dampened muscular and neural adaptations are observed with chronic stress . It is of no wonder that individuals under high stress are much more likely to incur greater healthcare costs .
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Reciprocal Relationship Of Stress And Pa
The extant literature largely concludes there are relationships between stress and PA/exercise, and that PA repels the negative effects of psychological stress, but what of the relationships in the opposite direction? In other words, is stress detrimental towards the effort of adopting and maintaining exercise behavior? It has been noted extensively that a dynamic, bi-directional relationship likely exists , but this direction of influence is often overlooked . Salmon mused that the stress and PA-exercise relationships are open to interpretation, and people who are less disturbed by stress might simply be more ready to take up exercise training . Zillman and Bryant propose that in response to stress people will engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as poor dietary practices or a lack of exercise, as a means of emotion-focused coping. Indeed, a plethora of research links stress to increased smoking , use of alcohol , and increased substance abuse . While less pernicious, stress is associated with dietary relapse , binge eating , increased caffeine consumption and television viewing . Studies examining composite scores of collective health behaviors, including PA, find that stress is predictive of negative health behaviors . In fact, stress accounts for a substantial proportion of variance in collective health behaviors . Considering the multifarious relationships between stress and behavior, it is plausible that stress is related to both PA and exercise as well.
Physical Activity For Stress Relief
Monday is an opportunity to start fresh and to incorporate healthy behaviors into your week. Use this Monday to see how physical activity can help manage stress.
Aerobic and endurance exercises can help the body deal with stress and, perhaps counterintuitively, help it relax. As a result, walking, jogging and other repetitive activities are sometimes called muscular meditation.1 Exercise has been shown to help maintain mental fitness while decreasing overall levels of tension, and to elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even short bursts of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.2 And slightly longer workouts have been shown to produce subtle mood benefits for hours after the activity.3 Aerobic exercise has been shown to treat depression and may help treat those suffering from seasonal affective disorder.4 Exercise often tops the list of recommendations to alleviate the symptoms of stress, even for those who are not athletically inclined.5
Activities to beat stress
Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese exercise based on movement, breathing and mindfulness. More than 500 trials and 120 systematic reviews have shown the health benefits of Tai Chi. The practice has been shown to increase well-being, prevent falls, aid cardiac and stroke rehabilitation, improve sleep and relieve depression.8 Tai Chi has been shown to be an effective stress management tool and is a potential treatment for reducing anxiety, depression, and low mood.9
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