Smiling woman running in a marathon.

Scientists worldwide agree that exercising and being physically active is good for your overall health, and they also agree that stress has many adverse effects on a person’s health. Before we dive into the effects of physical activity on stress management, let’s first set a baseline on what stress is. Then we will look at the many benefits of physical activity and how it works to reduce and manage your stress levels.


There are many definitions of what stress is and how exactly it affects our bodies and minds. Renowned neuroendocrinologist and stress researcher Bruce McEwen defined stress as a word that is used to refer to experiences that cause feelings of anxiety and frustration because they push us beyond our ability to cope successfully. While stress can have some beneficial effects, since the body reacts to anychallenge by releasing chemical mediators, most scientists agree that overwhelming stress is harmful to your body and mind.

Woman holding her head while looking at a laptop
Too much stress is bad for your physical and mental health

How the body reacts to stress

The human body reacts to stress in various ways by releasing various chemicals that can affect our metabolism, heart rate, and mood. Some of these effects can be helpful in immediately dealing with the factors that caused us stress in the first place: our breathing is accelerated, and our muscles are tense and ready to act. Prolonged exposure to stressful situations and accumulated stress on an everyday level can wear down our body and lower our immune system, along with causing a multitude of mental and mood disorders. The most common effects caused by dealing with chronic stress include:

  • Lowered immunity – our bodies will have a hard time fighting illness and disease, and our recovery time will be longer
  • Sleep disorder – insomnia is a common side effect of stress that can cause headaches and further lead to constantly feeling out of energy
  • Irritability and mood swings – confusion and having difficulty concentrating are common and emotional exhaustion can cause detrimental effects on the relationships with our loved ones
  • Depression – feeling overwhelmed can lead to a lack of motivation and general feelings of hopelessness, making it hard to deal with the factors causing us stress
  • Anxiety – with elevated stress levels comes a constant state of tension since our body is in a perpetual fight or flight mode
Man jumping over agility ladder outdoors
Exercise is a great and natural way of stress management

Why exercise is good for dealing with stress

Any doctor will tell you that you should exercise in order to stay healthy since being active reduces the risk of developing various forms of cancer, diabetes, heart complications, and stroke. Most medical experts will tell you that you need some form of moderate exercise every day and that you should aim for more vigorous activity ranging from 60 to 150 minutes each week. But there are also the effects of physical activity on stress management that cannot be understated.

Physical exercise leads to the production and release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that the body uses to relieve pain and stress. Vigorous aerobic activity can cause a state of euphoria called “runner’s high,” which has an immediate beneficial impact on your mood. Talk about direct stress release!

Focusing on a single task is often a requirement of heavy exercise. Developing muscle memory and concentrating only on your body can lead your brain away from the everyday troubles you are dealing with. Setting goals while exercising and then seeing the progress you make on your road to conquering the milestones you have chosen will give you a sense of optimism that can carry on well beyond the exercise itself.

Build up your strength and stamina slowly, especially if you haven’t been very active lately, and let’s face it – due to the global coronavirus pandemic, most people haven’t. In order to find an approach that is best suited for you, consider consulting with a professional trainer from A professional can help you get the best out of the effects of physical activity on stress management while making sure you avoid injury.

Man lifting weights on the floor
High-intensity exercise gives the best results for the time you put in

How to make the best use of exercise

Give yourself the care you need. There are many ways to take care of your health and happiness. But don’t make those an exception that you will only occasionally do. Think about your health every day and make changes to your lifestyle that will benefit you in the long run

Plan a regular exercise schedule and stick to it! Humans are creatures of habit, and turning your exercise into a weekly routine is the best way to keep coming back to it.

Rest properly. Try to have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every day. Besides helping you recover from training, proper rest and relaxation will also help you alleviate stress. You will have an easier time sleeping if you are thoroughly exhausted from working out. If your body is demanding rest, make sure you find the time for it.

Pick an activity that you can realistically fit into your weekly routine. High-intensity cardio workouts will give you the best results for the time you put into training. Intense trainings are gaining popularity, and many people are choosing them as a form of physical recreation since they are easy to fit even into a busy schedule.

Follow these healthy lifestyle tips, and you will quickly see the effects of physical activity on stress management and your overall health. Exercise will help you develop a goal-oriented mindset, improving your mood, which is a great way to fight depression. Sticking to a strict exercise routine will force you towards other healthy habits like eating healthy food and getting enough sleep. Combating stress through exercise is one of the most beneficial approaches that many experts recommend, so start working out as soon as possible.

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