How Exercise Reduces Stress

If you've been thinking about returning to the gym or even starting a new gym routine, here is some information on why now is the perfect time to start. Not only will exercising put you on a positive track to better health, weight loss, muscle gain, and a new physique, but it will help with a very important condition that we all can relate to - stress. Yes, exercising, particularly weight training, can help reduce stress.

Any type of movement and exercise is beneficial to your body. Jogging, aerobics classes, yoga, and walking are just a few things you can do to get your body moving. Generally, most physical activities will release chemicals in your brain called endorphins which improve your mood. Weight training also helps you feel good.

Lifting weights, like other exercises, is a wonderful physical activity that gets your body moving and releases those mood-improving endorphins. The specific endorphins that pertain to mood are dopamine and serotonin; both are key in producing pleasure and managing your stress levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is important in regulating focus, concentration, and problem-solving. It also plays a role in improving your overall mood. It is triggered and released when the body and brain anticipate a reward. For example, when you feel happy at the thought of having a nice meal or buying a new outfit, dopamine is at work. It has more functions like regulating some of your internal organ functions, motor control, pain processing, and more. Dopamine works in conjunction with other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, to enhance those long-lasting pleasurable feelings.

Serotonin is associated with mood management, overall well being, and feeling happiness. It impacts your nervous system by reducing the stress response, helping you to relax, think more clearly, and sleep better at night.

When you lift weights, whether they are heavy weights for the natural bodybuilder or the gym novice who is starting with a lighter set of dumbbells, resistance training is beneficial. Essentially, you are breaking down muscle fibres when you lift weights. During the time between gym sessions, your muscles undergo repair and recovery. In some cases, the muscles grow so that you can endure the next bout of weight training. By building this muscle endurance, you are also building emotional endurance. You are training your brain to overcome other life stressors that you encounter. That's when these neurotransmitters come into play.

By working out frequently, you are allowing these "feel-good" endorphins to flood your system, thereby improving your ability to manage your mood. You will find that you are more capable of dealing with stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression. Studies have shown that resistance training two or more days a week can significantly reduce symptoms of depression. These neurotransmitters are natural "pain killers." By adding weight training to your exercise regimen, you are building the physical and chemical mechanisms to deal with discomfort in your body and mind.

So, if you have taken a break from the gym or are thinking about getting a new gym membership, be sure to head over to the free weights and machines to begin your journey toward stress reduction, joy, and pleasure.

June 15, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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