When it comes to working out, just the idea of fitting in a sweaty session can put you in a frenzy. You might be wondering, how does working out relieve stress? Study after study have shown that people who exercise regularly have lower levels of stress. The great news is the mental and physical energy you put into getting in a workout pays off even beyond lower body fat and bragging rights. So, how does working out relieve stress? Read on to find out…

1. It Releases Endorphins

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that exercise can increase the body’s natural ability to manage pain and even help improve the quality of sleep. These pleasant side-effects are the result of a chemical called endorphin.

Physical activity triggers the body to release hormones called endorphins which are sometimes referred to as “feel-good hormones.” Endorphins make us feel happy and, as the ADAA points out, provides tangible physical benefits that also contribute to lower levels of stress.

2. It’s Moving Meditation

The Harvard School of Medicine compares the stress-reducing benefits of exercise to meditation. This refers to rhythmic, repetitive muscle movements like cycling, walking or jogging as “muscular meditation.” People who enjoy more vigorous, fast-paced workouts can enjoy being physically fit as well as these benefits.

If you have ever heard an athlete talking about “being in the zone,” then you have heard about this phenomenon. Meditation – which has a host of clinically documented stress reduction credits of its own – is all about being present and in the moment. When fully focused on the muscle contractions and movements of your workout, you can reach a similar state. Just skip the screens, find a rhythm, and let yourself get in the zone.

3. It’s “You Time”

In busy modern life, it can feel next to impossible to get a moment alone. However, exercise such as a full body workout routine represents time spent just for you. Even if you are surrounded by other people in the gym, a workout is a time that you get to focus on yourself only and indulge in the experience.

The demands of daily life have a tendency to pile up and cause stress. Often times, we do not have time to deal with them and get mentally backlogged. Just having some time that is all yours can give you breathing room to gather your thoughts, work through your feelings, and reduce your stress. If working out feels like a chore, try shifting your thinking by labeling it as an indulgence. Your time on the treadmill may just start to feel like a stress-busting treat.

4. It Improves Self-Esteem

According to a new study, self-esteem and stress directly affect one another. Higher self-esteem is correlated with lower stress, and low self esteem is correlated with higher stress. So how does working out relieve stress?

According to The Journal of Gerontology, regular exercise has been shown to increase self-esteem. People who exercise more feel better about their appearance and physical ability. This sentiment can lead to lower stress levels.

5. It Boosts Focus and Mental Clarity

A study at Dartmouth College found that regular exercise activated genes that help with mental focus and clarity. Regular exercise raises the levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (or BDNF).

BDNF increases mental sharpness, memory, and the ability to learn new information. If feeling like you’re scatterbrained or in a fog makes you feel stressed, then exercise might be just what you need to feel sharp.

Conclusion – How Does Working out Relieve Stress?

In summary, how does working out relieve stress?

  • Endorphins.
  • Moving Meditation.
  • “You Time.”
  • Self-Esteem.
  • Focus.

The key to reaping these mental benefits is regularity. Studies have shown that just 20-30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week is all it takes to reduce stress and anxiety by as much as 40%. Therefore, make exercise a priority for your physical and mental health each day.