How Does Exercise Reduce Stress?

Jun 28, 2021

PFX Labs

What if you were told that you can do something right now to reduce stress and improve your mood? And what if I told you that that same action would bring long-lasting improvements in your life will protect your brain from further stress, depression, and cognitive decline; would you do it?

Physical activity - the simple act of moving your body, has immediate and long-lasting benefits to both your mental and physical health.

We get it. When you're feeling stressed, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But exercise is one of the most transformative things you could do. It can aid your sleep, boost your confidence and improve your health.

SRS will help to give you the energy and clarity you need to get moving. At the same time, many of the ingredients included to improve your body's stress response also have benefits for exercise performance. This is because stress response and exercise are intrinsically linked. With SRS, you will experience improvements in your energy levels, endurance, and recovery.   

Benefits of Exercise to Cut Stress and Anxiety

Exercise and stress management go hand-in-hand. Physical activity works to reduce stress in a number of ways:

Exercise Has Brain-Changing Effects.

Exercise improves blood flow and increases the amount of oxygen in your blood. These changes have positive impacts on your brain.

The prefrontal cortex, crucial for focus, decision-making, attention, and personality, strengthens with exercise. This is great news as chronic stress shrinks this part of the brain. Therefore exercise can work to undo some of the damage.

Hippocampus, a key structure critical for your ability to format and retain long-term memory, is also affected by stress. Chronic stress decreases activity. Luckily, exercise produces new brain cells in the hippocampus that increase its volume and improve your long-term memory.

The brain is like a muscle, the more you work out, the bigger and stronger the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus get, which are also the two areas most suspectable to cognitive decline. If you exercise regularly, then conditions like Alzheimer's will take longer to noticeably affect your cognition.

Feel-Good Brain Chemicals

Physical activity also increases levels of endorphins – feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine that produce a relaxation response and give you a sense of well-being and euphoria. If you have ever experienced the ‘runners high’ – then this is why! What's more, you will not only have more of these endorphins immediately after physical activity, you will have more of them for a long time to come.

Distracts the mind

Exercise distracts you and gives you a break from thinking about things that might be causing you to feel stressed. During physical activity, you are forced to focus on your body rather than your mind. By focusing on the rhythm of movements, you can experience some of the same benefits as meditation. By concentrating on a physical task, you may feel a sense of optimism, energy, calmness, and clarity.

Sense of achievement/ improved self-image

Motivating yourself to exercise can be tough, but afterward, you always feel better. The sense of accomplishment that you have done something good for yourself is sure to brighten your mood.

This also accumulates over time. One day you may notice that you can lift a heavier weight, run for a longer period of time, or experience less breathlessness while walking uphill. Those small improvements become addictive!

Physical health

Improvements in your physical health can also help you to feel less stress. You will have more energy to do the things you enjoy and won’t have to worry about certain physical health problems. For example, regular exercise can improve your immunity, so you get sick less, lower your blood pressure, and improve blood circulation.

Better Sleep

Regular physical activity improves your sleep, which has a massive impact on your mood. Sleep has an impact on all your hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. Better quality sleep equates to less stress and more feel-good hormones!

 

Cortisol, Exercise, and Stress Relief

Cortisol is an important hormone and is released as part of the fight or flight response. In order to focus on the perceived threat, cortisol hinders critical functions like immunity and reproduction. It even breaks down body tissue in order to create more energy. Cortisol can decrease muscle mass and increase abdominal fat, so not good news for athletes or people trying to tone up their physic and gain strength.

Evolutionarily speaking, this response should be immediate and short-lasting. The response should be long enough to see off the immediate threat, and then your body functions should return to normal. But our modern lives are full of stressors, which can be a psychological constant. This is a problem for our mental and physical health.

Exercise is actually perceived by the body as a form of stress and stimulates the release of cortisol. While that may sound like a bad thing, as your fitness improves, you actually become better at dealing with everyday stress. This means that over time less cortisol will be released in response to both physical and emotional stressors.

Research has shown that the length and intensity of exercise affect how much cortisol is released. Training for more than 60 minutes, even at low intensity, may burn up the body glycogen stores and stimulate the release of cortisol. Therefore, short bursts may be more effective in reducing stress, at least while you are building up your fitness. (1)

What You Can do to Maintain Healthy Cortisol Levels While Exercising

Exercise has numerous benefits to both your physical and mental health. However, in order to minimize the impact on cortisol concentrations, consider:

  • Your body produces more cortisol in the morning, so it might be a good idea to perform intense sessions later in the day, when cortisol levels are lower.
  • Eat right to fuel your body, and make sure you consume protein after exercise to improve the cortisol response.
  • Please don’t overdo it. Take regular breaks and listen to your body.
  • Take a stress-reduction supplement to support your body's stress response and exercise recovery.

 

How SRS Helps with Exercise and Stress Management

The ingredients in SRS are designed to improve the body's stress response, which means that they inevitably have benefits to exercise performance and recovery.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a prized adaptogen that has the potential to supercharge your exercise sessions. It has been shown to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. In a study on 57 men, ashwagandha supplementation led to significant increases in muscle mass, and the amount of fat lost was more than double that of the placebo group. (2)

In fact, studies on grip strength, resistance, and sprints have all found that ashwagandha supplementation results in improvements when compared to a placebo. (345)

The degree of improvement is impressive, with about 8-10% improved power on sprints and about double newbie gains on leg extension and bench press.

Ashwagandha has also been shown to increase testosterone in men, which is beneficial for athletic performance. This is likely due to the antioxidant effects of ashwagandha. (6) Antioxidants prevent and reduce the damage to cells caused by oxidation. 

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine has been shown to improve endurance, which will help you to work out for longer before becoming tired. In one study, supplementation was found to improve time to exhaustion while cycling. (7)

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium also plays an important role in exercise performance. While exercising, you need 10-20% more magnesium, depending on the intensity of the activity. (8). This is because magnesium is used to move blood sugar to your muscles and dispose of lactate, which overwise builds up during exercise and causes fatigue.

Studies have shown that whether you are an athlete, have a chronic disease, or are elderly, supplementation with magnesium can boost exercise performance. (91011).

In one study, athletes who took magnesium supplements for four weeks could run, cycle, and swim faster. They also experienced a significant reduction in cortisol and insulin levels. (12)

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid with great benefits for athletic performance, helping you to workout harder and longer. It has been shown to help remove waste products that otherwise lead to muscle burn and fatigue. It also protects muscles from damage and oxidative stress. (1314) As a result, runners and cyclists can cover longer distances with less fatigue. (1516)

Another study supports its role in reducing muscle damage. Participants placed on a weightlifting routine experienced fewer markers of damage and less muscle soreness (1718)

In addition, it has been shown to increase fat burning during exercise. (19) It does this by increasing your body's use of fat for fuel. In cyclists, supplementing with taurine was shown to increase fat burning by 16%! (20)

Zinc

Zinc is important for metabolic function as over 300 enzymes require it in the body. (21) Research has shown that endurance training depletes levels of zinc and can even affect its metabolism. (22) The other factor in zinc depletion? Stress!

Low levels of zinc can increase fatigue and reduce endurance, so if you plan to incorporate more exercise into your routine, then supplementation with zinc can be beneficial.

How Much Exercise Reduces Stress?

If you haven’t exercised for a while, it's good to build up your fitness gradually. Except during illness, you should perform aerobic exercise nearly every day. Aerobic exercise is any cardiovascular conditioning (gets your heart rate going). It can include activities like brisk walking, running, swimming, or cycling.

Just 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise or 15-20 minutes of vigorous exercise each day will be beneficial. Adding a little strength training and stretching a couple of times a week ensures balanced health and wellness.

If you haven't exercised for some time, start by incorporating a 30-minute walk, 2-3 times a week, and slowly build up.

 

Which Are The Best Exercises For Stress Relief?

You don’t need to run marathons or have big muscles to benefit from physical activity for stress relief. All forms of exercise can be helpful, try and find something you enjoy, whether it be walking, tai chi, rock climbing, hula-hooping, dancing, swimming, tennis, cycling, or something else. Even simple things like gardening or climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator can brighten your mood and reduce stress.

When it comes to strengthening your muscles, weight lifting, yoga, or resistance bands are a great addition to your routine. If you want to target major muscle groups, then be sure to give them adequate rest time. You can read more about this here.

Activities like tai-chi and yoga also reduce stress levels through meditation and breathing techniques which relax the mind. Shallow and erratic breathing are common symptoms of stress. Slow, deep, regular breathing is a sign of relaxation. You can learn to control your breath to mimic relaxation, which will create a relaxation response.

Finding a friend to exercise with can help motivate you and further reduces stress by promoting community and socialization. Plan things with friends and family and make exercise fun!

If you haven't exercised for some time or have any health concerns, seek medical advice about an exercise regime that fits your needs. When done correctly, physical activity can be an effective way to manage many conditions, including high blood pressure and even heart disease.

Conclusion

Exercise is an effective way to relieve stress. Finding something you enjoy and that easily fits into your routine is key to maintaining a new habit. SRS will help improve your energy and motivation and support your endurance during exercise and recovery afterward. It will also maximize improvements to your stress response.

References

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