What is stress?
The best-known stress hormone is adrenaline. That’s the hormone that movies mention when a hero is “filled with adrenaline” and suddenly has superhuman power. But what is adrenaline?
Adrenaline is a hormone that is released when you are in a dangerous situation. For instance, when you encounter a predator like a tiger or a lion. The hormone is responsible for increasing your focus, making you alert. It is so efficient that you can jump out of the way before even realizing you need to jump out of the way.
Then there is cortisol. Another stress hormone, but less famous. It is for those situations where danger is just around the corner. For instance, when you are going through a field of lions, but they haven’t noticed you yet. You are incredibly alert!
Luckily, you will not encounter many lions in your day to day life. And being attacked by one is even rarer. But cortisol isn’t just released when you are in a field of lions. It is released in every situation where you should be more alert because you are in a potentially dangerous situation.
Why are you more stressed than your ancestors?
We are more stressed than our ancestors. We are not walking through fields of lions anymore. Our plans are much more ambitious than that. Our big projects take more time to complete. And instead of taking breaks, we move on to our next stressful task. It is like walking through a field of lions for months on end.
Now other dangers take the place of lions. There are more people to replace you at your job, so you’d better do it well. Failing a test can cost you lots of money, time, and opportunities. A small financial error can bring hefty penalties. And on top of that, your mishaps and failures are likely to be seen by more people. Sometimes, your mistake can even stay on the internet forever. These consequences are stressful.
On top of all these long-term dangers, we are seeing everyone’s achievements on social media. Everyone is happy and successful. This puts even more pressure on you to perform.
You are living in a world that has changed very quickly. Your ancestors lived very different lives. Most importantly, they were much more active than we are. They couldn’t take elevators, subways, or drive in cars. They had to walk to get somewhere. As a society, we have made it very easy to move as little as possible with our own two legs and still travel more distance in a day than our ancestors did in their whole lives. But with all our comfort, we didn’t think about the relationship between movement and stress.
Why is movement important to relieve stress?
Movement is essential in stress reduction. You want to get rid of that cortisol. And movement helps you with that.
When you exercise, moderate to high exercise will first increase your cortisol levels temporarily. This is great because cortisol makes it possible to perform better. It increases your energy.
Exercise will also help your body to release other hormones like the human growth hormone and endorphins. The human growth hormone, or HGH, helps you balance your cortisol after your exercise. And endorphins make your body relax, which lowers the cortisol even more.
So even though cortisol is higher during exercise, it will significantly decrease after you’re done. This is very logical if you think about it.
You would be extremely stressed walking through a field of lions. And relieved once you’re out of danger. Then you relax. But without exercise, your cortisol levels are more likely to stay elevated.
Anaerobic exercises, like lifting weight, increase your HGH. Aerobic exercises, like running, increase your endorphins.
The best stress-reducing exercise
When you think of exercise, most people think about running, going to the gym, or doing some team sport. But exercise can be anything, as long as it gets your heart pumping.
You can tend your garden, clean your house or grab your bicycle. Something that would make you sweat in your regular clothes. Whatever you choose, pick something that you enjoy. But there is one king among all exercises…
Whether you are fit, obese, or ill, most people can walk – even if it is just for a couple of minutes. Walking engages large muscle groups, can be done anywhere in the world without equipment, and it gets you outside (which reduces your stress even more).
The simplicity of walking is meditative. And you can listen to music, talk to a friend, or listen to an audiobook during a walk.
Reduce your stress and start walking three times per week for at least 20 minutes, preferably in the morning. You will notice a massive change!
About the Author: Rik Bulthuis is the founder of Capitalcharacter.com. He has a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Human Decision Science, a Coach, Habit Expert, and Published Author. But most importantly, he is a guy who loves to help people find their happiness again! Visit the site if you lost your happiness.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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2 thoughts on “Why a Lack of Exercise Is Making You Stressed”
Running does the job for me. I started 20 years ago because I wanted to lose weight. Then it became an addiction. Once you pass the initial phase of being tired as hell after the first kilometer, it becomes an essential part of your life. You feel better and stronger. Like you can handle anything. You look better too. Highly encourage people to run.
Thanks for sharing such an amazing and informative blog. I agree with this that doing exercise is good for mental health and it resolves many problems. As a professional therapist, I really like the way that you describe all the things.