Exercise and stress research has typically focused on aerobic exercise. There have been consistent findings that people report feeling calmer after a 20- to 30-minute bout of aerobic exercise, and the calming effect can last for several hours after exercise. Recently, there has been an increased amount of research on the role of mind-body types of exercise such as yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, there is somewhat limited research on the role of resistance exercise in stress management.
he exact physiological mechanisms to explain how exercise improves stress have not been delineated. Human and animal research indicates that being physically active improves the way the body handles stress because of changes in the hormone responses, and that exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviors. In addition to the possible physiological mechanisms, there also is the possibility that exercise serves as a time-out or break from one’s stressors.
A study that tested the time-out hypothesis used a protocol that had participants exercise but did not allow a break from stress during the exercise session. Participants were college-aged women who reported that studying was their biggest stressor. Self-report of stress and anxiety symptoms was assessed with a standard questionnaire before and after four conditions over 4 days. The conditions were quiet rest, study, exercise, and studying while exercising. These conditions were counterbalanced across participants, and each condition was 40 minutes in duration. The “exercise only” condition had the greatest calming effect. When participants were not given a break from their stressor in the “studying while exercising” condition, exercise did not have the same calming effect.
Summaries from recent reviews on yoga or Tai Chiclinical trial interventions indicate that these mind-body types of exercise can be effective in reducing stress. The authors of these reviews suggest that the results should be viewed with caution because study quality was varied. However, it should be noted that reductions in stress reported in one review were similar to or greater than reductions from other types of commonly used stress management techniques.
In addition to understanding how exercise can help manage stress and the types of exercise to recommend for stress management, it is important to understand common barriers that might affect exercise participation in high-stress clients. Lack of time is the most commonly reported exercise barrier for individuals in general. A lack of motivation, fatigue, poor sleep habits, and poor dietary habits are factors associated with stress that can negatively impact exercise compliance and adherence. Common exercise barriers and stress-related health problems should be taken into consideration when developing an exercise prescription for high-stress individuals.
- Con infromación de Health and Fitness Journal