4 Guidelines for Using Vigorous Exercise to Manage Stress
One of the best, yet underutilized ways to manage and reduce stress levels is with a healthy dose of exercise. However, many people aren’t convinced of the measurable benefits it can deliver, and that is understandable. After all, how can putting your body under “stress” result in reduction of the same?
Though not immediately apparent, exercise does in fact deliver a range of stress busting benefits. Can it benefit you? Absolutely, since all types of exercise are beneficial in managing stress.
Exercise Helps to Modulate Hormones
A big part of the beauty of vigorous exercise on reducing stress is its ability to keep hormone levels in check. Ranging from testosterone and growth hormone, to cortisol and even adrenalin, vigorous exercise can also temper the ‘flight or fight” response, alleviating anxiety and reducing added stress.
Furthermore, testosterone and growth hormone are able to blunt the effect of cortisol, offering additional help in keeping cortisol low.
Before you just had to the gym for a marathon session, however, follow these exercise guidelines for maximal results:
1 – Keep Exercise Sessions Brief
As a rule of thumb, a single exercise session should not exceed one hour. Why? Because the beneficial effects are primarily derived during the first 60 minutes, following which it decreases rapidly.
For example, although exercise sessions can blunt the effect of cortisol for many hours, prolonging your workout session beyond 60 minutes can increase the levels of circulating stress hormones, nullifying the benefits.
Likewise, the benefits derived from increases in testosterone and growth hormone dry up following the first 60 minutes, paving the way for muscle breakdown and catabolism, instead of protein synthesis.
2 – Perform Exercises that You Enjoy
Who wants to perform exercise that you don’t enjoy and even worse when trying to handle stress! However, an easy fix is to make use of exercises that you don’t regard as exercise.
Love dancing? Then make it a date and get in a few aerobics inspired dance sessions per week.
Likewise, if running or weight lifting is your passion, go for it. Weight lifting is unique, however, in the sense that it elicits both an anabolic and catabolic effect- so try to get in a few weight lifting sessions per week to keep up muscle mass.
3 – Perform Controlled Breathing
Though you may expect an exercise session to leave you labored on the floor panting for breath, exercise can offer you the perfect opportunity to perform focused deep breathing exercises.
In fact, focused breathing has been proven to reduce anxiety and modulate elevated heart rate, helping to calm you and center your thinking. Anaerobic exercise may lend itself better to deep breathing, and also has a longer residual effect on lowering stress levels via elevation of endorphins.
4 – Stay Consistent
Weekend warrior? That’s cool. However, if you want to deliver the one-two punch to stress, you need to develop a consistent workout plan. It is much better to work out every day for just 20-30 minutes, than to try to condense an entire week’s work into the weekend.
In addition, every time you work out you are able to reap the benefits arising from your session, instead of just having a one-off benefit. Frequency and consistency are by far the most effective way to derive the many benefits exercise has on stress reduction.
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress, especially when employed in smart manner. The key is to keep sessions consistent, short, and enjoyable. If the workout begins to feel like a chore, you will likely drop out as fast as you started, defeating the purpose.
Exercise can take many forms, and what may be best for another person may not be for you. Mix it up, find what works and just do it!