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Exploring Effective Methods For Stress Management #2: Exercise To Combat Mental Stress & Fatigue

Updated: Jul 27

In our latest article Six Ways To Cope With Stress, we listed various ways to deal with stress with cost-effective tools & suggestions backed with research findings. We wanted to get into how exercise can be helpful.


Exercise may not be as easy to do as breathing, considering there's upfront costs like buying equipment, paying for gym memberships, having a personal trainer, & specialized classes. Although these costs are something worth considering to one's budget, there are more economically viable ways to add exercise to one's day without a huge dent in the wallet.


Exercise can include things like weightlifting, going for a walk, run, bike ride, hike, yoga session, stretch session, rock climbing, calisthenics, sports, dancing, bowling, & golf if you want to get a little crazy on a hot summer day.


Despite paying for access to fitness tools or opting for more cost-effective options, exercise is recommended for improving physical performance as much as it is for mental well-being.


This article will explore why exercise is beneficial to our mental well-being with research support, anecdotes, & potential for social opportunities.



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It is noted that people with depression tend to be less physically active than non-depressed individuals, & exercise has been clinically studied to improve symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, & mood disorders (Paluska et al, 2000).


Exercise is encouraged, but be mindful of health concerns that may require a doctor's consultation. This article isn't intended to convince people to go out of their way to develop an intense exercise routine; it's to highlight the physiological & mental benefits for readers to be more open to leveraging physical activity for improved overall health.


Outside of 13,145+ searchable research journals correlating exercise & mental health since 1945 on PubMed, we'll rely on a handful to widen the scope of notable findings. We'll also be more specific to how physical activity changes the way we feel.


Most people exercise with a goal in mind whether it's training for competitive sports, body image goals, lower health risk factors or even for things like community belonging.



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All those are all valid enough reasons to be exercising, there may be more than what's displayed on the surface for people & their exercise retention rates. Some people love exercise so much they would even maintain a consistent enough routine as they age to prevent physical and cognitive decline.


Chodzko-Zajko, Ph.D (et al, 2009) & other staff writers at The American College of Sports Medicine found that using exercise as a way to prevent chronic diseases is associated with improved mental health & social integration with others.


Psychologically, people who regularly exercise & exert focused effort into an activity tend to have more self-esteem along with a more fortified self-concept. When you're putting effort into an activity that's exhausting, you would proud of the work that went into that session & feeling good about the performance & progress.


It becomes more gratifying to see the progress improve over a period of time by collecting qualitative (body image, external comments) or quantitative (weight, heart rate, repetitions, time) data. A desire for continual improvement correlates to a higher level of personal self-efficacy, which can be translated from a workout environment to other parts of a person's life (a person works hard in the gym, they might work harder in the office).


Physiologically, exercise helps to naturally boost serotonin release which is important for mood regulation & memory recall (Deslandes et al, 2009). In addition, physical activity has been linked to neurogenesis which is the brain's ability to have a larger & improve learning capacity. With more blood flow going through the body & brain, one can think & move more effectively than otherwise.


There comes a point when physical activity becomes social & it improves the quality of the exercise session. Friends can tag along for a brisk walk to catch up on the way to a coffee shop or a cool sightseeing adventure. Or a friend comes to the gym & becomes a motivating workout partner there to be supportive & challenging. Maybe, there's cool YouTube or Instagram videos that suggest exercises requiring two people working in unison.


These are some examples of how an addition person tagging along can add to the value of exercising. There are plentiful & creative ways to making working out fun with other people.



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I'm particularly passionate about exercise as a form of stress relief because of the abundance of bodily changes as described earlier.


Speaking from personal experience, working out (in this case weightlifting) for me has been beneficial to my upbringing & important to my lifestyle. The hard work that was set forth spending time in the gym helped me prepare for sporting events like football games in high school & college.


Working out at times felt like an outlet for me to express how I feel with my output being an indicator of how I feel on a particular day; it was like a journal entry to my life involving if something happened recently to make my workouts go the way they did (let's say I didn't get good sleep, something was emotionally bothering me, or if I didn't recover well enough my workout would highlight it). It's like a mirror reflecting either physical or mental I need to address, or express it through the intensity of the workout itself.


And when money was tight for a period of time when I needed mental support, exercise felt like a sample test of my resiliency to fight through whatever emotional pain could have been going on at the time.


It's not something I see myself living without, it has only made my life better & enriches my social skills. It has allowed me to engage with others more deeply to discuss health & eventually segway into other topics with people that could've included our interests. I've made more friends through participation in sports, interactions in the gym, & online health forums than I made organically through usual encounters with people.


While we can't endorse any particular programs, exercise could be the differentiator to having more mental peace of mind!


Lean towards activities that appeal to interests, or try something new if that is more tasteful whether it's to experience something novel or for opportunities to connect with others in classes or workout settings.


As stated earlier, it doesn't have to be intense just as long as it's consistent. Having a friend to tag along can help with maintaining accountability. Set a realistic physical goal to achieve, consult friends, family, professionals for input, & most importantly have fun!


Start small, go for a walk, get some sunlight & enjoy the sensations associated with exercise.


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Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for educational purposes only, it is important for readers to be mindful of all information presented & have their own due diligence.




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