The True Role Of Fitness For Stress Relief

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 If you are prone to high stress levels, yoga is one of the most popular activities for stress relief. Indeed, yoga can provide a sense of calm and serenity as you learn to control your breathing and develop mindfulness. 

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However, yoga is not for everyone. While some people truly enjoy the slow and controlled pace of yoga, others describe it as stressful and uncomfortable. And that's completely okay. You don't have to become a fervent yoga enthusiast to find stress relief through fitness. Maintaining regular physical activity is more than enough to help your body and mind handle challenging and stressful times. 

Stress can affect your health in many ways, interfering with your digestion, sleep, thoughts, and energy levels. Everybody reacts differently to stress: Some people lose their appetite, while others indulge in unrestricted binge-eating seances. For some, stress can keep them awake at night, while others would prefer to sleep for days. As stress can take different forms for each of us, it's only fair to consider how fitness as a whole, instead of just yoga, can promote stress relief. 

It offers a coping mechanism

Fitness can become a response to a stressful situation. Indeed, we all need a go-to response to help us cope with challenges and difficulties. Unfortunately, people can often choose unhealthy coping mechanisms that deliver an immediate feel-good sensation. Sugary treats are a popular choice, for instance. However, sugar does not reduce stress levels. It only creates a rush of energy which temporarily masks stress. In the long term, it can even increase anxiety. Individuals facing chronically high stress often rely on hard substances or alcohol for comfort. Indeed, as this explains,, addictive substances affect the pleasure center in your brain. They do not alleviate stress but temporarily make you experience joy, which is why addictive behaviors can appear. 

On the other hand, fitness contributes to a real mood boost. Exercising releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling. Additionally, the feel-good hormones also reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone. 

It presents a distraction

Stress is a complex reaction. Biologically, stress is a survival response to a threatening situation. We can't eliminate stress completely because it is a warning signal for danger. In theory, stress should disappear as soon as you've responded to the situation. Unfortunately, when the stressful situation is long-lasting, your mind takes over the biological reaction. At this stage, stress is fuelled by negative thoughts. When the mind turns into a turmoil of incessant worries, you need distraction techniques to walk away from your stress. Solving a sudoku puzzle could give you a much-needed break from worrying, for example. Fitness belongs with your go-to distraction techniques. Putting on a pair of trainers and going for a run in the woods can help clear your mind and shut down the worries. 

It helps to sleep better

Stress affects your sleep quality in a variety of ways. It can keep you wide awake in your bed, watching the clock tick the hours away. Alternatively, stress can also interfere with your sleeping patterns, so even though you think you are having a good night's sleep, you never reach deep sleep and feel tired the next day. Being physically active can help you go to bed and sleep soundly and tightly at night. 

Indeed, exercising is tiring, so your body is more likely to release sleep hormones. Besides, as your cortisol levels drop, your sleep hormones can get to work pretty much without any interruption! Medical studies mention that exercise acts as a protective function against sleep disorders and can also prevent insomnia. 

Sleep is instrumental in regulating stress levels, as, during deep sleep, the body can correct elevated cortisol levels. 

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It supports muscular recovery

Chronic back and neck pains are often associated with stress. Indeed, stress can create muscular tensions, typically in the back, shoulder, and neck areas. Physical activity helps build strength by creating muscle tears that will gradually be repaired during the recovery phase. As you recover, your muscles repair stress tension and pain. 

It makes you more resilient

Working out can be challenging. You often need to push yourself as you become stronger and fitter. However, the process of constantly challenging your muscles and mind builds up resilience. You become mentally, emotionally, and physically "stronger", which means you are less vulnerable to stress. 

It improves your diet

Finally, maintaining a regular source of activity contributes to improving your diet. You develop food awareness as you build a fitness routine, recognizing which food fuels your body. A balanced diet supports fitness performance. But it also reduces risks of inflammation and increased blood sugar, which can sustain high stress levels. 

Can a fitness routine be the response to chronic stress? Exercising can certainly help you regulate stress levels and stress impacts on your mind and body. It puts you in a better position to resolve the issue permanently. 


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