Importance of Exercise for Stress Relief

importance exercise for stress relief for seniors

Article by 

Marianne Kirby

In a world where busy, the new black and hustle culture is celebrated – stress is inevitable.

And while we might feel the need to maximise every minute, this constant pressure can damage your health. It exposes you to higher than usual levels of hormones linked to your ‘fight or flight’ response — contributing to health problems including depression and high blood pressure.

G’day, PaulK

Stress can become a bit of a cycle. When you’re under pressure, you’re less likely to eat well and exercise. We may also resort to overeating, smoking or using alcohol or drugs to cope with life’s demands. These unhealthy habits add to our health problems – so the cycle continues.

Exercise for Stress Relief

You might feel like reaching for a glass of wine at the end of a long day, but research suggests you’re far better off tackling your stress on an exercise mat or the sports field.

Studies show regular exercise can help reduce depression, mild anxiety and help relieve stress. Exactly how is unclear, but it probably involves:

  • boosting the production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals, endorphins and serotonin
  • distracting your mind from anxious thoughts
  • deepening breathing and relieving muscle tension
  • improving sleep quantity and quality
  • increasing your energy levels, alertness and concentration

Run Your Race

The key to exercise is to do something you enjoy that fits into your lifestyle – otherwise, it will only add to your load.

Aim to do 30 minutes of exercise for stress relief and to raise your heart rate daily to reap the mental and physical benefits. Resistance exercises twice a week, like weight training or Pilates, are also recommended.

If you don’t have a block of time, it doesn’t matter – three 10-minute bursts a day is just as good as one 30-minute session regarding the long-term benefits. Some psychologists even suggest that a 10-minute walk may be as good as a 45-minute workout for temporarily relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The key to exercise is to do something you enjoy, that fits into your lifestyle

Create Healthy Habits

Understanding that exercise for stress relief is one thing, but making sustainable changes in the long term is challenging. Try these tips to help motivate you to move more.

Mix it up

Going for a walk is good, but so is a bike ride, a swim or a dancing class. Adding variety can help spice up your routine and maybe even your social life.

Group Fitness Class for Motivation

Exercise with a friend or in a group

There’s nothing like the fear of letting someone down to get you up and moving. Why not recruit a friend or two to keep each other accountable? Four-legged friends can be great motivators too. Putting your feet up is hard when an excitable pup is staring you down.

Make exercise a priority.

We know exercise is essential for self-care, stress management, and long-term health – but when life is busy, why does it suddenly slip off the priority list? Try scheduling regular exercise into your calendar – just like any other commitment. That doesn’t mean blocking out hours at a time, start small and be consistent.

Research suggests doing something regularly throughout the week is better than cramming it all in at the weekend.

Relax! You’re human!

Some people take an all-or-nothing approach to exercise and eating. They feel that if they slip up, eat a lot of chocolate, or miss a day or two of exercise, they’ve blown it. Missing a regular walk or eating chocolate is no disaster – tomorrow is a brand new day, so you can pick up where you left off. The important thing is not to give up.

Aim to do 30 minutes of exercise a day

Ditch The excuses!

It’s easy to find a reason to skip your exercise session – have you tried flipping the script? Learn to talk yourself into exercise – not out of it.

The trick is to predict your excuses and have a counter-argument ready.

“It’s too hot/it’s too cold/I’m too tired” becomes “It’s cold, but I can put on extra layers of clothes and walking will make me feel warmer”.

“It’s hot, but if I wait until late afternoon and walk in the shade it’ll be easier” can be “I’m tired, but a brisk walk will energise me”.

“I don’t have time.”

Life is busy, and it can be hard to find time to exercise for stress relief. If you’re struggling to find a window, you could try:

  • Switching an hour of wind-down time in front of the TV for a workout
  • Using the ad breaks for small activities like skipping or sit-ups
  • Delegating domestic tasks, like making dinner, to other family members to free up the time
  • Using lunch breaks for regular walks or an exercise class
  • Have a ‘quickie’ and give it all you’ve got!
  • Combine exercise with spending time with family or friends
  • Try walking meetings or catch-ups with friends.

“Exercise is boring.”

Doing the same thing all the time can get boring – the solution is to mix up your exercise activities or try to make your basic walking/jogging routine more enjoyable.

Try a new form of exercise, change your running or walking route or join a social group or class that gets you moving.

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