Aerobic Exercise Benefits for Stress Management

By Alex Hoffmann on October, 19 2020
Lifestyle
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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Aerobic exercise benefits span well beyond losing weight or gaining lower body strength. When it comes to stress, aerobics can’t be overlooked as a management tool—especially right now. An estimated 40 percent of U.S. adults have experienced poor mental health since the start of this pandemic, according to a survey from the CDC

Health concerns, income loss, social distance, racial injustice, and political tensions are just some of the stressors that escalated in 2020. Add that on top of an already full plate with family obligations, homeschooling, work, and more and it’s no wonder American’s stress levels are skyrocketing. 

Yet, with limited access to fitness centers and more time at home, more than 50 percent of Americans currently work out less than usual, according to a recent survey. Without this outlet, stress can be harder to manage because aerobic exercise is a critical tool for stress management. 

The good news is, you don’t need a gym to reap the benefits of aerobic exercise for managing stress. You can run outside or use on-demand workout platforms to get your body moving and work the stress out. 

Here are four reasons to start moving your body, especially as we move into the holiday season, even if you can’t access a gym. With less stress, your day-to-day may induce less anxiety and those unexpected turns of events will be even easier to handle.

Keep Reading: Stress Management Tips and Techniques for Professionals, Students and Parents

Aerobic Exercise Can Balance Your Mood State

Physical activities are known to release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins into the bloodstream, which transmit pleasure signals to the brain. This is why people who exercise on a regular basis often describe the feeling they get post-workout or post-run as a natural “high.” 

Research also shows that aerobic exercise can enhance the mood state of those with anxiety, depression, and other stress-related mental health issues. For example, study participants who increased their aerobic exercise reported a boost in well-being and overall mood, as well as a decrease in both tiredness and anxious rumination, as reported by Frontiers in Psychology.

Whether you’re having a bad day or not, you can reap the good-mood benefits of aerobic exercise and ride the post-workout high. 

 

Aerobic Exercise Can Sharpen Brain Function

When stress feels overwhelming, it can often lead to “brain fog,” or the inability to focus, recall, and think clearly. Aerobic exercise should be the first line of defense when this happens because it increases circulation to the brain, calms inflammation, lowers stress hormones, and strengthens neuroplasticity, according to The Cleveland Clinic

Aerobic movement can improve a number of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and critical thinking. Evidence also indicates that regular exercise could mitigate the risks of dementia as the brain starts to age. Study authors explain that 20 to 30 minutes per session, or as long as it takes to sustainably and consistently increase your heart rate and need for oxygen, can be sufficient.

Use aerobic exercise as an outlet on days when work is challenging to complete. A 20- to 30-minute run may be all you need to get back into the rhythm and complete your work. 

Keep Reading: Benefits of Bodyweight Training: You Can Gain Muscle

 

Aerobic Exercise Can Ease Chronic Symptoms

Individuals with chronic pain often notice their symptoms flare up in times of stress, according to the experts at the Institute for Chronic Pain. Wha’s more, they explain that stress is often the initial cause of the pain: 

“In fact, stress has a much more significant role in the production of pain than simply making it worse. The development of pain itself, from acute injuries or illness to the long-term maintenance of chronic pain, incorporates what we call the stress response. In other words, were it not for our stress response, we would not have pain as we know it.”

Aerobic exercise offers a number of physical benefits to manage this pain, suggests a study by Sports Medicine and Health Science. Exercise promotes muscle and bone density, regulates insulin, elevates heart and lung capacity, and boosts immune function, all of which helps mitigate your pain during times of stress. This study also found that aerobic exercise can reduce cancer mortality rates by 7 to 17 percent.

The benefits of aerobic exercise cannot be overlooked if you’re in pain, or the pain is worsening from stress. Find the cardio style you like most to keep pain at bay at all times—when you’re stressed and otherwise.

 

Aerobic Exercise Can Increase Your Resilience

Strong mental and emotional resilience makes it easier to adapt and ultimately thrive during stressful circumstances. This can be difficult during times like 2020 when it feels like everyone is dealing with one crisis after another. Those who participate in aerobic exercise consistently tend to be more resilient and, therefore, less reactive to stress than their sedentary counterparts, according to Frontiers in Psychology

Frontiers explains that exercise activates the same responses as acute stress—increased heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol, and mental alertness. As a result, active people build more of a tolerance to those sensations in the body which makes them less susceptible to the adverse impacts of stress.  

This is why maintaining a consistent fitness routine is critical to repairing the benefits of aerobic exercise. The more you prioritize that time for your body, the easier it will be to manage any and all stress as it arises.

Keep Reading: Why Should You Be Physically Active?

 

Aerobic Exercise Benefits for Managing Stress

The benefits of regular aerobic exercise for managing stress cannot be overstated. Encourage your clients to add more aerobic fitness to their current workout routine and make time for more aerobic exercise yourself. The good news is, you can make sure your clients are managing their stress with aerobic exercise, whether you’re training in a gym or online. Don’t overlook this critical element of fitness as a trainer and fitness enthusiast. 

 

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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