Today’s world is filled with stress producing situations. Unfortunately, they’re nothing like the stress we were created to deal with in early times. That stress came from warring tribes attacking or wild animals. It required man to either flee or fight. The fight or flight response is a response to stress. It causes changes in the body to prepare it for battle or prepare it to run. In order to relieve stress and get your body back to normal, you have to fight or run.
Not only is running or fighting not a solution to many of today’s stresses, it’s simply not appropriate. That means you’re left with the changes, such as increased muscle tension, increased respiration, higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate, slowing digestion and sending blood to your extremities. Higher levels of cortisol and other stress hormones go into the bloodstream to create those changes. When you workout, you’re actually working the body as hard as you would if you fought or ran, so it helps burn off stress hormones.
When you workout, your body increases the production of hormones that make you feel good, like endorphins. These are neurotransmitters that function much like opioids, which can block pain naturally by connecting to the opioid receptors in the nervous system. That’s why people experience a runner’s high and why therapists find that exercise can help lift depression and aid in reducing anxiety.
While exercise has been called meditation in motion, meaning it’s a great stress buster, it also improves your overall fitness. It improves your posture and makes you look more confident. That improved posture has a positive effect on your mental attitude, too. When you look and act like you’re confident, people treat you that way and you start to feel that way. That confidence can also reduce some of the stresses in your life.