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8 Ways Exercise Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety

8 Ways Exercise Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety

There are reasons we have sayings like “She’s a real pain in the neck” or “____ is a pain in the butt.” And, “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

Stress and anxiety affect both your mind and your body.

We “feel” emotionally uncomfortable and often also “feel” physical discomfort too as the anxiety causes muscular tension. We end up with a stiff neck or sore shoulders or back aches from being stressed out.

I’ve helped many people overcome a chronically stiff neck, sore shoulders, or low back pain by helping them process their anxiety backlog and build anti-anxiety skills.

Exercise is great for keeping the muscles from harboring tension and also helps your mind and mood.

8 ways exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety


  1. helps your mind move over from your worries to focusing on the physical activity,
  2. releases feel good endorphins,
  3. is relaxing (during or after the exercise),
  4. improves sleep (which then in turn decreases anxiety and stress, for more see my earlier post Sleep And Anxiety—A Cyclic Relationship),
  5. helps everything in your body work better, including the organs that control stress hormones like cortisol (there'll be a post with lots more about this soon -- from a Naturopath guest blogger),
  6. boosts your self-confidence,
  7. works the muscles that have tensed up from the stress, and
  8. helps get the glow back in your face as your blood gets moving from the physical activity. (We often feel better when we look better.)

Work physical activity into your life

Exercise advice commonly suggests 20 to 30 minutes most days.

What’s the best exercise? . . . Whatever exercise you’ll do.

Make a plan today to ensure that you get physical activity into your routine.

Not all exercise happens in the gym.

What you’re looking for is physical activity, movement.

It could be in a gym, or:

  • taking the stairs
  • parking your car further away in the parking lot
  • cleaning the house with gusto
  • gardening
  • walking at coffee break or lunch hour
  • getting outside with the kids or the dog
  • playing soccer with your friends
  • dancing
  • hula hooping (one of my new favorites) 

When making an exercise plan, consider:

  • What time of day are you most likely to exercise?
  • What days of the week will most likely work to fit in movement?
  • What type of exercise would you like to do?
  • What’s a good length of time for each exercise session? (Set length of time goals for when you first begin and increases until you get to your ultimate goal.)

Every little bit helps. Even 5 minutes of activity is a step up from none.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t start by running a marathon (though if you’re already active, you may want to up your game by setting a marathon participation goal).

Life’s an experiment. As you put your plan into action, keep checking what’s working and not working. And use that learning to adjust your plan when needed. 

anxiety relief

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  • Ann Silvers
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