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Exercise and stress: 7 ways daily walks balance levels

How much stress is too much? The truth is, there is no clear line between healthy and unhealthy stress levels. Stress is not all bad. It can motivate you to perform better at your job and help you keep up with other activities. This article looks at how the combination of exercise and stress is great.

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Reasons we develop high stress levels

Too much stress for an extended period can make you feel helpless, ultimately contributing to depression, burnout, and even physical problems.

There are numerous reasons why we develop high-stress levels; the major ones are:

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Responsibilities

Whatever reason or from wherever your stress is triggered, when you include exercise as part of your daily routine, it helps reduce your overall cortisol levels (stress hormones) by releasing endorphins (natural painkillers), making you feel better instantly.

Here are seven reasons why adding daily walks and exercise to your life will help relieve stress.

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7 Ways exercise and stress go hand in hand

1. Decreases your stress hormone levels (reduced cortisol)

Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol levels by 23 percent. It is one of the main hormones that cause stress responses in your body.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) on exercise and stress relief, “Exercise may help bring cortisol levels back to normal, improving your mood and making it easier for you to handle stressful situations. Almost 14 percent of people use regular exercise to cope with stress.”

It is an easy way to boost your dopamine and serotonin levels

Regular walks and exercise boost serotonin and dopamine — two neurotransmitters that regulate mood and make us feel happy. Exercise also increases norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter that helps us stay focussed and alert during the day.

  • Dopamine: It is one of the chemicals that make us feel good when we’re happy or excited about something
  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.

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2. Increases oxygen flow to the brain

Since we breathe more heavily when exercising, our bodies get better at taking in oxygen than when resting or sleeping (which means more energy).

This is important because there is evidence that low levels of oxygen in the brain can cause stress-related disorders such as high blood pressure and heart disease over time if left untreated.

3. Improves sleep quality

Walking helps you sleep better because it helps relieve stress and anxiety. As we age, the body produces fewer stress hormones and less melatonin, the hormone that signals us when we need to sleep.

However, a regular walking routine can help increase melatonin levels and reduce stress hormones in your body.

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4. Helps you solve problems more effectively

A Stanford University study found that walking after a stressful event can help solve problems more effectively.

Stanford researchers conducted a study examining the “Creativity Levels of People While They Walked Vs While They Sat”, and the results were mind-boggling. They found that a person’s creative output was enhanced by almost 60% when they started walking in comparison to sitting idle and doing nothing.

5. Helps you ease feelings of loneliness or isolation

Walking is also an excellent way to connect with nature. Nature provides us with an opportunity for reflection on the beauty all around us—the changing seasons, the sounds of birds chirping or leaves rustling in the wind—and these types of experiences can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.

Going out and simply walking can also help you connect with others — it’s a great way to get some fresh air, meet new people, and talk with them about their day. This is how exercise and stress management work successfully.

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6. Helps you manage symptoms of depression and anxiety

Exercising can help you manage deep-lying symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here are ways exercise and stress management go together:

Relieves tension

Endorphins also relax muscles and increase blood flow, which can help relieve tension throughout the body.

A tired body means less energy for negative thoughts and overwhelming feelings, contributing to mental tension.

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Combats anxiety, depression, and anger

Exercise helps relieve stress by releasing endorphins in the body that can make you feel good.

Endorphins are hormones released by the brain during exercise that bond with opiate receptors in the brain to create a feeling of pleasure or euphoria, similar to morphine or heroin use. These endorphins are known as “feel-good” hormones because they make you feel happier even after exercising has stopped!

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Improves self-esteem

Exercise improves self-esteem by giving you a sense of accomplishment and making you stronger, fitter, and healthier. This helps build self-confidence because you feel good about yourself when you look and feel better.

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7. Walks and light exercise help you manage your blood sugar levels

Did you know that regular walking can help:

Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol

Walking is a low-impact exercise that can improve your overall health, especially your cardiovascular system. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends everyone walk at least 30 minutes a day — five days a week. Walkers also should add strength training two or three days a week.

If you can’t walk for exercise, try other forms of light aerobic activity such as swimming or cycling.

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Improve your immune system

Exercise can help boost your immune system because it helps increase blood flow throughout your body – including your lymph nodes, where white blood cells are produced and stored for later use when fighting infection or disease.

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Strengthen your muscles, bones, and joints

Working out releases muscle tension, which can help prevent muscle spasms linked to stress-related conditions like fibromyalgia or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Maintain a healthy weight and body composition

Walking also helps maintain a healthy weight and body composition by burning calories.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes five days per week can burn up to 1,000 calories per week — enough to lose up to 10 pounds in six months if you eat the same amount as you did before starting your walking programme.

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Summary

These 7 ways show that exercise and stress go hand in hand. The combination of exercise and stress is great because it gives you something healthy to focus on (exercise), something that’s good for your mental health (reducing stress), and it’s fun!

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