Exercise to reduce stress, anxiety and depression

Physical activity can relieve stress and can also improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Experts believe it achieves this by promoting resilience and allowing a person to release stress, which improves their mood. Although researchers know that exercise can improve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, they don’t fully understand why. They don’t know exactly how exercise boosts mood and promotes calm, but they have theories about its effects.

Some evidence indicates that exercise increases resilience, which makes a person better equipped to deal with difficult situations. Exercise recommendations for stress reduction are the same as for general health promotion: 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. Brisk walking, jogging and cycling are examples of this type of exercise. Read on to learn more about how exercise can improve mood, exercises to try, risks involved, and more.

How can exercise reduce stress?

Researchers are studying the mechanisms that link exercise to stress. There are two main theories:

– Increases emotional resilience to stress

One explanation says exercise can increase emotional resilience to stress.
In a 2014 study, researchers looked at 111 participants and compared the effects of a stressful task to those of a non-stressful task. They also analyzed the differences between people who exercised regularly and those who were sedentary. The results indicated that stress caused a smaller drop in positive mood in people who exercised regularly. Sedentary people experienced a greater drop in mood. This suggests that regular exercise can increase resilience, helping people cope with difficult situations.

However, it is important to note that the study did not demonstrate a direct causal link between stress levels and exercise. Other factors are likely at play, for example, someone with a chronic health condition that requires them to be sedentary may have higher stress levels overall. Despite this, lower stress levels can mean a person is less likely to experience certain health problems. Older research, from 2013, notes that 75-90% of visits to a primary care physician are for stress-related conditions, such as:

– cardiovascular illnesses
– obesity
– diabetes
– sleep problems
– headache
– suppression of the immune system
– neck and back pain
allows a person to release stress.

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Another theory is called the “dead time” hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, exercise reduces stress by allowing people to detach themselves from it. For example, a person can reduce their stress level at work by taking a brisk walk on their lunch break. In an older study from 1998, researchers tested the time-out hypothesis in a small group of women with anxiety and found that exercise led to lower levels of anxiety.

A 2021 study of high school students found similar results. Researchers found that a 10-minute break during a stressful exam week led to lower stress levels and improved cognitive function.

How to Exercise to Relieve Stress

Many studies of exercise for stress relief focus on aerobic activity. This does not mean that other types of exercise, such as resistance training, are not effective, but that they are less studied. Instead, aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.
People experiencing work-related stress may wish to break up their daily exercise into shorter sessions. They can do them before work, during the lunch break or after work.

Many physical activities fall into the category of aerobic exercise has established that aerobic exercise can be done anytime.

A person can choose another activity that they enjoy, such as:

– swimming
– dance
– gardening
– the bicycle

Exercise for Anxiety and Depression

Researchers have studied how exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.


The authors of a 2020 review looked at research that explored the effects of exercise on anxiety. They found that physical activity can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety, and they noted that it can also reduce symptoms of other mental health conditions.
The authors said exercise can help treat anxiety disorders through a wide range of benefits.

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In a 2018 review, researchers looked at studies looking at the effects of exercise on depression. They found that for some people, physical activity can be just as effective as other first-line treatments for depression. Additionally, the physical health benefits of exercise can improve overall well-being. Although exercise cannot replace treatments such as medication and therapy for many people, it can be a useful addition to an existing treatment plan.


The evidence clearly indicates that exercise is safe for most people. Although it does not usually cause problems, it has the following risks:

– injuries, most often affecting bones, muscles and tendons
– the dehydration
– overheating
– heart attacks, which are rare.

To exercise safely:

– choose physical activities adapted to the physical condition of the person. Activities such as walking, gardening and stationary cycling have a low injury rate, while running and contact sports have a higher injury rate.

– Start slowly, then gradually increase the intensity and duration. A person is more likely to injure themselves if they start exercising too hard too quickly. It should increase in duration and intensity gradually, and it may be helpful to seek advice from a doctor or personal trainer.

– Use appropriate sports equipment. For some activities, the use of equipment such as a helmet and goggles can help prevent injury. Individuals should ensure that their equipment is properly fitted.

– Choose safe environments. If a person lives in a hot climate, they may want to exercise early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the highest temperatures of the day. People can also stay safe by avoiding heavy traffic areas.

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Contact a doctor

People who have never exercised may want to contact a doctor before beginning a workout. This is especially important if they have pre-existing health conditions. A doctor can provide advice on the amount and type of exercise that is appropriate. Also, if a person experiences permanent pain or injury, they should contact a doctor.


Researchers believe that physical exercise can reduce stress levels and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety by promoting resilience and allowing people to detach from stress. People can try short bouts of exercise while working or studying.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]

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