How Fitness Reduces Stress

Life happens, and as a result, we all know stress happens. Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Moving your body is one of the best ways to help reduce and manage stress. We all know the great things exercise does for physical health, but it is even more powerful for the brain.


So how does fitness or moving the body reduce or manage stress?


First—endorphins—the magic chemicals in the brain released when doing something pleasurable, such as exercising or moving your body. They help relieve pain and improve the sense of well-being.   WAIT….. exercise as pleasurable? Yes, exercise can be pleasurable, especially when you find something you love to do. You don’t have to commit to a rigid exercise regime that you don’t enjoy to see positive effects. Exercise should add to your life and be enjoyable, not take away from your life and make you miserable.


The key is to find something you enjoy and want to do so you look forward to it, which will, in turn, help you be more consistent. Consistent effort is truly the ‘secret sauce’  to overall improvement in fitness and stress management.


“I am already stressed out enough with life, let alone finding time to exercise!”


Good news – you don’t need to train for a triathlon or marathon or commit to hours at the gym to feel the mental health benefits. A simple 20-30 minute walk can have positive outcomes and stress-relieving effects. Further, you do not need to create a complex exercise routine to start; just start with a walk, see how that affects your stress levels, and then move forward. If walking is all you can handle to start, that’s enough. Walking is enough. Seek other means to keep your body moving when you are ready.


Endorphins can also improve your ability to sleep, which is also really important in managing stress. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you think more clearly, among many other benefits.


Another way fitness can help reduce stress is by simply moving your focus onto something else. When you are engaging in a sport, activity or exercise that requires concentration and focus, you are moving your attention away from stuff that stresses you out. You often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s stressors and are concentrating on your activity (an activity that should be bringing you joy.) Before too long, you will seek to escape and manage stress by moving your body more often.


Studies show exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.


Move your body, do something you enjoy, and reap the rewards of stress management.


Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT, CFSC

SVPT Fitness & Athletics


Need help putting together a fitness routine or figuring out the next step in your current one? Learn more about SVPT Fitness and book a free assessment.