The good news is that pretty much any form of physical activity can help to reduce the health effects of stress. Physical activity helps your body to produce more endorphins, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. This effect is sometimes referred to as a “runner’s high”. Endorphins also function as a natural pain-killer, acting similar to morphine in the body. They also help improve sleep length and quality, so regular physical activity is very helpful for those who suffer from insomnia.
Research has found that regular participation in aerobic exercise can decrease overall stress and improve mood, sleep, and self-esteem. Even just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate these effects.
Physical activity requiring repetitive motion, such as walking, running, or hula hooping, has an added benefit for stress reduction; it serves as meditation in motion. When we engage in a repetitive activity, it allows our mind to “shut off”. Over time, this can become as relaxing as a formal meditative practice, which is great news for those who don’t care for meditation.