How Does Exercise Help to Relieve Stress?

Exercise, like love, is a many splendored thing. It’s good for us in lots of ways.

The ‘Use it or Lose it’ principle is one. That is, your body requires constant upkeep and you need to work your muscles to stay healthy. Also, exercise, either cardiovascular or weight work is a great source of calorie burning if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight.

Now comes a third more subtle reason, but no less compelling, I think.

exercise-physiology1Some background. I wrote an item on stress January 10, 2011. In it I mentioned that I was taking a course from The Great Courses on Stress and Your Body.

In one lecture, Professor Robert Sapolsky gives a superb explanation of stress outlets. He explained that in a situation where two rats were receiving equal stress, if one was able to go and gnaw on a block of wood, or run on a wheel, the rat would not get a stress-related disease. The block of wood in this instance would be a stress outlet.

Why does something like this work? Going back to the January 10 post of the stress response of a zebra running for its life from a lion, the first reaction in the zebra was a shot of adrenaline and a tightening of its muscles to run for its life.

When we are stressed at work, for example, we also experience a tightening of our muscles.

And guess what turns out to be a super stress outlet for us? You guessed it. Exercise. A good run or a weight workout are a couple of very effective ways to unravel the muscle tension we have been walking around with all day at the office.

So, on top of all the other health benefits we have discussed, stress relief and mental health go right up there. As a person who experienced some extremely stressful situations while in the working world, I can attest that something like this can be a godsend.

Another reason exercise can relieve stress is that the discipline of the activity distracts us from the source of our stress. If we are trying to use proper technique in the weight lifting we will not be fretting over the mess at the office.

Another more innocuous distraction would be to go home to one’s wife and/or children to remind oneself that they are really important in life and you can see the mundane stressors of the office in a clearer perspective.

So, now you have another, really strong reason to get into an exercise routine of some kind. You will reap many benefits from such a decision.

Stress is terribly damaging to the body and soul. If you are a sufferer, please check out an earlier post – Super Tools for Handling Stress. You might be able to eliminate it at the source.



Filed under Exercise, stress, Weight

2 responses to “How Does Exercise Help to Relieve Stress?

  1. Hi Tony,

    Great article, loved the content. I agree exercise is a very productive way to combat stress, and it is a healthy one. Thank you for spreading the word to readers, hope to read more content from you. Thank you.



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