Fit for Mental Health: Using Exercise to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Millions of Canadians are not getting the exercise they need. Most understand that getting fit is important, and yet it’s hard for them to find themselves motivated toward making that change. Fitness takes work, and it’s not uncommon to feel like putting off that work is easier than making the effort.

So it seems that for many, being fit isn’t enough of a motivator. But what if you found out that daily exercise was also a powerful stress treatment? What if you found out that it’s possible to experience a considerable drop in anxiety that can make your life considerably better?

The Mental Health of Better Health

We now know that exercise really is one of the best ways to cut down on your anxiety and stress. Some research has shown that exercise may be a more powerful tool than many anti-anxiety medications. Considering the degree that stress tends to affect the lives of men and women across the country, it’s no wonder that many people are depending on exercise for something other than just losing weight and improving health.

What Makes Exercise So Valuable?

  • Endorphins

The brain is a complex organ. It works by reading signals sent both through neurons and through chemicals in the brain. Endorphins are one of these chemicals – it is a chemical that improves the mood, and works as a natural pain killer. When you exercise intensely, your body releases these endorphins in an effort to ensure that the exercise is more pain free. But because the endorphins are also the cause of better moods, exercise has the side effect of reducing your overall stress.

  • Cortisol Reduction

Just as exercise improves endorphin levels, so too does it decrease cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released during intense levels of anxiety. It single handedly is one of the most damaging hormones in your body, poisoning your DNA, damaging your muscles and organs, and even creating memory loss. It’s one of the primary reasons that stress is so damaging to the mind and body, and when you exercise that cortisol is burned away.

  • Tired Muscles

Another issue that comes up in the research is the way that inactivity affects stress. Research has found that when your muscles are filled with excess energy, you experience not only more physical tension, but also more mental tension as well. It’s unclear why this is the case, but it is known that the more energy you have in your muscles, the worse your stress will be.

So it should come as little surprised that the opposite has an effect as well. If you’re able to tire out your muscles and body, your physical sensations and thoughts are less stress filled as well. Exercise tires out the body in a way that nothing else can, making it a great way to control your overall stress levels.

  • Additional Benefits

While those three are the primary reasons that exercise benefits anxiety, there are other links as well. For example, exercise tends to shift your focus away from daily demands and give you something productive to think about rather than something stressful. Exercise helps you sleep, which is also important for stress. Exercise also helps you feel better about yourself, and self-confidence helps to eliminate stress and anxiety.

Fitness is the Ultimate Anxiety Cure

There is no better way to manage or even eliminate anxiety than exercise. Many people are motivated to get in shape, but are missing that one final piece that pushes them to actually do it. If you’re someone that suffers from a great deal of daily stress and anxiousness, then perhaps that can be the final piece. Fitness provides a tremendous effect on eliminating your anxiety and stress, and a great way to improve your mental health.