Exercise Boosts Mood and Reduces Stress
If anything has endeared me to my personal training clients and FitCampers, it’s that I’m pretty transparent. They know I’ve struggled with my weight. They know that I sometimes struggle with food choices. They know that I have soreness and injuries. They know that I struggle with motivation at times. And they hear me panting and grunting during workouts and I sometimes complain about how hard an exercise is. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. While I want to motivate them as a personal trainer, I also want them to know that I can relate to them through my personal experiences, struggles and victories.
One thing many of them might not know is that I am easily stressed. I’m a classic type-A personality and wear my emotions on my sleeves. Just ask my family and close friends. In the past, my doctor has prescribed various medications to help me manage stress and bouts of mild depression. Unfortunately, those medications only treated the symptoms and had adverse physical and mental side effects. Exercise, on the other hand, has helped me better manage my stress and allows me to deal with situations much better and calmer, all with positive side effects.
So, why does exercise work so well in managing stress?
- Increased endorphin release. When we exercise or engage in other physical activity, we relase endorphins with are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. You may have heard of athletes being “in the zone” or a runner getting “runner’s high”. Endorphins also trigger this euphoric feeling. Endorphins also act as analgesics and seditives. Not only do they diminish the perception of pain, but they can help you sleep better. For me, I love that exhilaration of completing a hard rep, a tough set or a demanding workout. And, I find that I sleep much better at night after I’ve had a hard workout during the day. Just know that exercising right before bed can disrupt sleep as the immediate endorphin release boosts energy levels.
- Self-reflection and meditation. Whether we’re lifting weights, sprinting down a track, driving a golf ball, or hitting a great backhand shot, we concentrate on that moment, leaving everything else behind. We don’t think about the bills we need to pay, theargument we just had with our spouse, or the work deadline we’re facing. After I step away from a stressful situation and exercise, I usually come back with a clearer mind and come up with a solution to manage a situation that weighs heavy on my mind.
- Mood boost. Exercise causes a series of positive chain reactions. It releases endorphis, improves sleep, clears your mind, increases confidence, and eases the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. These things help to ease your stress and boost your overall mood. I always feel great after a workout and have a lot of energy.
So, the next time you are feeling stressed, don’t go for the cookies or bag of chips… get physical. Take a walk, head to the gym, ride your bike, or shoot some hoops. Even a 10- or 15-minute bout of exercise can have a positive effect without any adverse side-effects. Do this daily and you’ll lose 10-15 pounds in a year!
To your health!