Work out Your Stress with Exercise

Feeling stressed out? Work out your stress with exercise

Credit: Brittney Bush

Exercise is an ideal way to reduce and manage stress

I’ve been feeling stressed out recently and needed to find a way to relax. Naturally, I turned to exercise.

On top of being very busy with work, we’re expecting our first baby anytime in the next week. Even though I’m excited, I’ll be honest and admit I’m also borderline terrified at the thought of having to care for a newborn. I’m the guy who’s never held small babies for fear of breaking them and now I’m not going to able to avoid it.

So I’ve had a few restless nights and have felt the tension rise in my shoulders and upper back.

Things culminated on Tuesday morning and I needed to find a way to reduce the stress or I’d be one big ball of tight muscle by week’s end.

Why You Get Tense with Stress

Muscles tighten up due to stress as a response to the hormones secreted. Adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones are released to prepare you to take action. You’ll fight or flee whatever is causing you the stress. This is a normal and healthy response.

Unfortunately punching or running away from what’s causing you stress is often not the best response in today’s world. So you never get to expend the energy your body has built up and your muscles get tense. Your stress response now becomes unhealthy. 

Why Exercise Is Great for Reducing Stress

Since your body is ready to take some sort of physical action, exercise is the perfect solution to reducing stress.

The exercise takes the place of actually fighting or fleeing your stressor. You still will have to deal with whatever is causing the stress, but when you work out you expend the energy that’s been generated in your body.

And once you expend this energy other hormones, such as endorphins, are released and help you feel better and more relaxed.

My Stress Reducer

I’ve really been enjoying my new paddleboard and with the warmer weather finally here I decided to take a cruise around False Creek to burn off the tension. (You can see the fun I had recently teaching my dog how to paddleboard with me at the BCLiving Flickr group.)

I got in the water near Science World and began paddling toward Granville Island. The water was a sheet of glass and I could feel the tension leave my body with each stroke. Apart from the False Creek ferries and some kayakers, there wasn’t much traffic on the water so it was very relaxing to navigate.

Paddling to Granville Island and back took about an hour. Then I hit the gym for a 30-minute strength workout and felt like a new man afterward. All the tension in my back and neck was gone and I slept like a baby that night.

Exercising outdoors is also great at restoring your body’s circadian rhythms (your biological 24-hour clock), which can help you sleep better. And after a few sleepless nights I definitely needed to get a good night’s rest.

So if you’re feeling stressed, work it out! Get some exercise and expend that built up energy.

Trust me, you’ll feel great afterward and will be in a much better head space to deal with your stress. And you won’t have to hit your boss or run away from the phone the next time it rings.