Exercise doesn’t have to be stressful. Exercise should help relieve stress.
Before starting to define the benefits of exercise, it is interesting to know what stress is and what types we can find.
The different types of stress
Stress can be:
- Physiological: this is the least known type of stress, but it is the one that can largely predict our health and well-being in general. Physiological stress manifests itself through overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system and an elevated heart rate, long after exercise.
If your body is feeling “jittery,” you may consider several options: rest more, sleep more, hydrate more, and eat nutrient-dense foods. Generally, one of the three is the culprit.
- Psychological: The best known, which generally manifests itself in the form of anxiety and / or variations in behavior. An individual feels overwhelmed in his decision-making processes. Psychological stress prevents us from thinking and acting clearly and exacerbates the lack of motivation to attend to any task we have, including exercise.
Types of exercise to reduce stress
Exercising can improve health by helping the brain better cope with stress, according to research on the effect of exercise on the neurochemicals involved in the body’s stress response. (Moya-Albiol, 2001).
Exercise is a great tool with stress, since it helps us combat associated symptoms. Among the same exercise, we can find different types of exercise that relieve different types of stress, let’s focus on three modalities.
(Guerra et al, 2017)
a) Cardiovascular training
b) Strength training
c) Stretching and relaxation
Cardiovascular and strength training
Cardiovascular and strength training can help relieve both physiological and psychological stress through similar mechanisms. Cardiovascular training better prepares cardiovascular function and the autonomic nervous system. As we improve our overall fitness through cardiovascular training, our body gains better control over changes in heart rate.
With repeated training sessions, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to complete the same amount of work. An individual’s heart rate does not skyrocket as quickly in training, but it also decreases more rapidly after training. Cardiovascular and strength training also creates better intermittent control over the activation or deactivation of the stress-promoting autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system.
This is one of the many reasons why cardiovascular and anaerobic conditioning can increase heart rate variability – a positive measure of overall health and well-being. Cardiovascular and strength training triggers the release of “happy” hormones and chemicals, including:
- Endorphins: A hormone in the body released in response to exercise that produces a feeling of being “strong” and “powerful.”
- Testosterone – Both men and women produce and release testosterone in response to exercise. After all, it is a recovery hormone. Testosterone, like endorphins, increases the feeling of “strength.”
- Dopamine: A chemical produced and released from various areas of the brain that increase pleasure and reward research behaviors.
- Serotonin – A chemical produced and released from various areas of the brain that improves mood and positive affect.
Stretching and relaxation
Stretching and activities like yoga also relieve physiological and psychological stress, but through a very different mechanism of action. Both activate the recovery and regeneration phase of the autonomic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is what triggers recovery at the systems level.
From the release of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone, to the activation of anabolic processes, such as energy reserves. Both yoga and stretching are intended to decrease, not increase, your heart rate.
Together, yoga, stretching, cardiovascular exercises, and strength training improve heart variability; While yoga and stretching prepare the parasympathetic system as a factor for heart rate variability, cardiovascular training and strength training prepare the sympathetic system as a factor for heart rate variability.
Yoga and stretching trigger the release of “relaxing” chemicals in the body. Mechanisms of action include:
- Reduced Endorphin Release: Although endorphins can be fantastic, there is a physiological trade-off if their release is too long. Yoga and stretching help prevent the prolonged release of endorphins.
- GABA: GABA is the main neurochemical released in the brain that leads to the inhibition of physiology and behavior. While an excessive release of GABA can lead to drowsiness and fatigue, the correct amount fully activates a parasympathetic nervous system response to increase recovery and regeneration.
In short, how exercise leads to better stress management is multifaceted. It is done by recruiting and activating various brain and body systems, releasing numerous hormones and chemicals, and leading to various types of positive changes in behavior, mood, and well-being.
We know that exercise is good for your body, but you are too busy and stressed to include it in your routine. As good news, just about any kind of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can help you minimize stress. Even if you are not an athlete or not in shape, you can find that a little exercise goes a long way.