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The Link Between Exercise and Mental Health Is Key to Coping with Stress Better

woman with stressors and commitments that would benefit from exercise and mental healthToday, it can be argued that everyone lives in a world filled with stress. And if you are not too careful and you let it persist, it can eventually take over your life. In fact, stress can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. And when you do nothing to fight it, it can eventually result in adrenal fatigue. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to keep stress from wreaking havoc on your life permanently. One of the best ways is to turn to exercise. In fact, experts say that the link between physical exercise and mental health is the key to helping your body cope with stress much better.

An Overview of the Body’s Stress Response

Any time a person encounters stress in daily life, the body responds by way of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system. The NEM Stress Response system is made up of six key circuits that get activated the moment stress is encountered. These include the hormone, detoxification, neuroaffect circuit, inflammation, metabolism and cardionomic circuits.

Among these circuits, the cardionomic circuit is the one that involves the heart, adrenal glands, and autonomic nervous system. Its response is triggered by the release of the hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline by the adrenal glands. Once the cardionomic response is triggered, your breathing rate would become faster as the blood also pumps throughout your system more strongly. At the same time, your heart rate would also go up. All of these are occurring to make sure that your body is ready for a fight or flight response in the face of stress.

Meanwhile, the detoxification circuit involves the kidneys, immune system, liver, lymphatic system, and extracellular matrix. All of these would work together to rid the body of any harmful toxins or pathogens as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Typically, once the stressful event ends, the body functions return to normal. However, in the case of chronic and continuous stress, the cardionomic, detoxification, and all the other circuits are forced to keep responding to stress until they become overworked. At some point, the body’s organs can no longer keep performing their function efficiently.

At the same time, the detoxification circuit would no longer be able to remove toxins from the body effectively, which causes a surge in the body’s toxicity levels. Meanwhile, the adrenal glands would also no longer be able to produce enough adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to support the cardionomic response. As this continues, the body suffers from significant hormonal imbalance, which triggers adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS).

Fortunately, recent research has found that this can all be avoided with the help of proper physical exercise. This is because it was found that engaging in a form of physical activity can go a long way in helping the body cope better with daily stress.

The Crucial Link Between Exercise and Mental Health in Dealing with Stress

two women working on exercise and mental healthToday, many experts have confidently said that the link between exercise and mental health is the answer to helping people deal with stress more effectively. In fact, with exercise, stress can be better prevented from escalating. Therefore, none of the organs and body functions in the NEM stress response would become overworked. And more importantly, adrenal fatigue can be better avoided.

Unfortunately, however, exercise is often overlooked as a viable intervention in mental healthcare, as suggested by a study conducted by the City University in London. Nonetheless, the beneficial effects of physical activity to mental health are truly significant and therefore, cannot be ignored much longer.

For starters, exercise has been seen as an effective way of managing stress as it also helps increase the concentration of norepinephrine in the body. This helps moderate stress response better. In fact, a study conducted by the Faculté de Médecine Grange Blanche in Lyon, France, found that performing a treadmill exercise has led to elevated plasma epinephrine levels in the body.

Meanwhile, exercise has also been found to have beneficial effects against depression and anxiety. In fact, a study published in the Psychiatria Polska journal in 2004 revealed that physical activity led to positive changes in mood states, depression, and anxiety levels among participants. Moreover, the study also said that exercise can also significantly increase blood circulation in the brain which can positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and improve one’s physiological reactivity to a stressful episode.

At the same time, the study by City University also pointed out that exercise can help in improving one’s cognitive functioning and self-esteem. Moreover, physical activity has also been associated with improved quality of life among people who are suffering from schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by the University of Birmingham in the U.K. and the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health in New York City has also found that exercise can help prevent language decline among the elderly. This is because exercise can possibly help the body fight off amyloid poisoning, which has been associated with various degenerative diseases. Indeed, the link between exercise and mental health is crucial in ensuring that the body does not suffer from elevated toxicity levels and harmful effects of chronic stress.

Exercises that Support Better Stress Response

Now that you know the important link between physical exercise and mental health when it comes to dealing with stress, it’s time to find out what kind of exercise you can perform to help you combat stress better. All of these ensure a vigorous workout that also lets your body sweat out and detoxify properly. This way, toxins do not stay inside and cause your body systems to become overworked.

Meanwhile, you may want to consult with your physician before you start a new exercise routine. This is especially true if you are dealing with adrenal fatigue or if you are healing from an injury. In cases like this, it would be best to be cleared by your physician so that the exercise routine doesn’t end up doing more harm than good.

That said, here are some types of exercises that you can readily consider:


3 people walking together to improve exercise and mental healthIf you do not have any time to head to the gym or even perform a workout routine regularly, walking is the best form of exercise for you. You can make it a habit to walk to work or simply take a stroll around town before you start your day. Doing so can help improve your overall mood so that you will become less affected by stress.


If you are looking for an activity that is slightly more intense, you can also do some running regularly. As you pick up your speed and focus on the trail ahead, you will find that it is much easier to eliminate any negative thoughts or feelings that you may have. At the same time, running also makes for a great cardiovascular workout.


Cycling is one physical activity that lets you boost your mental health significantly. This is because in cycling, you have to focus on what your body is doing which helps remove negative thoughts effectively.


Especially if you happen to be recovering from an injury, swimming is the best exercise for you since it gets your heart rate up without giving your body any impact stress. At the same time, being in water can also help calm your body and get rid of any thoughts that can simply cause stress.


Yoga has long been known to be an effective form of exercise when it comes to dealing with stress. By taking deep breaths and practicing mindfulness, yoga helps you fight off mental issues such as anxiety and depression.

Feel free to try any of these physical exercises so that you can experience the beneficial link between exercise and mental health. Indeed, any of these can help you deal with stress better so that it doesn’t become worse and lead to serious health problems. Don’t let your quality of life suffer by letting stress take over.

© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Recent research has found a crucial link between exercise and mental health when it comes to dealing with stress. In fact, engaging in physical activity regularly has been found to help improve one's mood and even lower anxiety levels. This, in turn, also helps one avoid feelings of depression.

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