Exercise for Stress

People exercise to control weight and get in better physical condition, but exercise and stress management are also closely linked.

Exercise can be an extremely effective stress reliever for several reasons:

Exercise and Stress Hormones

Exercise increases the release of endorphins, the powerful, pain-relieving, mood elevating chemicals in the brain. This is what produces the ‘runners high’.

Regular exercise also reduces the amount of adrenal hormones, like cortisol, that your body releases in response to stress. So regular exercise not only helps you to deal with current stress, but provides some immunity against future stress.

Outlet for Frustration

Negative emotions like frustration, anger, and irritability build up when under stress, and don’t always find a release.

It’s not good to control your feelings during the day, only to take things out on your nearest and dearest when you get home.

More high energy forms of exercise like boxing, kick-boxing, martial arts or weight training can provide an effective release of these emotions, turning these otherwise potentially unhealthy emotions into motivation for increased health and well-being.


Physical activity itself can take your mind off your problems and either redirect it on the activity being performed, or get into a ‘zen-like’ state.

Exercise usually involves a change of scenery, like a gym, a park, beach, or neighborhood streets, all of which can be low stress places.

Focusing on the scenery or the activity, gives the mind a break, so when you return to the problem, you can think more clearly, in a relaxed state.
The increased circulation for exercising, will bring more blood to the brain, making thinking clearer.

Increase in Self-Esteem

As exercise helps you to lose weight, tone your body, and increase your stamina, you start to feel more confident.

There is a glow that radiates from feeling better about yourself. Feeling better about yourself can help you resist taking on some stress.

Social Support

Because exercise can often involve others, you can enjoy a double dose of stress relief with the combined benefits of exercise and fun with friends.

Whether you’re in a class with others, at the gym with a friend, playing in a team, or just walking with a friend, having others exercise with you can make you feel good as well as help motivate you.

Improves Eating

People who exercise regularly tend to eat more nutritious food. It is no secret that good nutrition helps the body to manage stress.

Exercise helps our mood, and often we eat more when we are feeling low, so exercise helps on both fronts.

Improves Sleep

Regular exercise will improve the quality of sleep, allowing the body to repair and regenerate overnight. We know how important good sleep is for our health.

Strenuous exercise should not be done late at night, as it takes time for the body to relax ready for sleep.

General Increase in Health

While stress can cause illness, illness can cause stress. Regular exercise can improve general health, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and lead to having better health will reduce stress

Finding the right exercise to meet your needs is important. Deciding to go to the gym at 6.30am, when you are not a morning person, may well add stress to your life.

Pushing yourself to do pump or spin classes when already overloaded, may not be as useful as yoga, tai-chi, or walking.

Remember to check with professionals if you are uncertain about what is good for you, or if you have existing health issues. You want your effort to be successful.

The long-term solution is to tackle the cause of the stress, but exercise can help make it more tolerable.

Back to Articles