There are many good reasons to learn to manage stress. While stress generally starts inside your head and can affect your mood and your sleep, it can have physical effects too.
If you’re constantly under stress for any reason, your body can be exposed to higher than normal levels of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline — and this can affect your health, contributing to a range of problems from headaches to depression and even high blood pressure.
People who are stressed may also be less likely to eat well or find time to exercise, or use ways to cope with stress that can damage their health such as over-eating, smoking or over-use of alcohol and other drugs.
But an antidote may be at hand — regular exercise.
Although research has found that regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood, it’s not yet known why. Possible reasons are that regular exercise:
It’s important to choose an activity you enjoy that fits easily into your lifestyle, not one that creates more stress. Research suggests that both aerobic activity (exercise that significantly raises your heart rate, such as jogging cycling and swimming) and resistance exercises (such as weight training or Pilates) may be helpful for depression. No matter what activity you choose or what intensity you exercise at, every little bit can be beneficial to help improve your mental and physical health.
Black Dog Institute
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Black Dog Institute. Exercise and Depression. [online] Randwick, NSW: Black Dog Institute. c2010 [accessed 23 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
Mayo Clinic. Exercise and stress: Get moving to combat stress. [online] Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education. c1998–2010 [last updated 23 July 2010, accessed 23 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com
McBride R Whitwell B. Exercise and your mood. [online] Camperdown, NSW: Brain and Mind Institute. c2002–2010 [accessed 23 Aug 2010] Available from: http://sydney.edu.au/bmri
Nabkasorn C Miyai N Sootmongkol A et al. Effects of physical exercise on depression, neuroendocrine stress hormones and physiological fitness in adolescent females with depressive symptoms. European Journal of Public Health. 2006; 16(2): 179–184.
Penedo FJ Dahn JR. Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2005; 18(2): 189–193.Top of page
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Last published date: 31 August 2012