Strategies for stress: walking it off

Marcus Herbert Nuffield Health Clinical Lead Physiologist in the South East More by this author
It might sound too simple to be true, but you can walk off stress. Here’s how it works.

Low to moderate exercise can be very useful for stress management.

The rest and digest system

Exercises that focus on muscle tension and deep breathing, such as walking, activate the parasympathetic system in your body. It's also known as the ‘rest and digest system’ because it's responsible for lowering your heart rate and helping your body to relax.

It's the opposite of the sympathetic system, also known as the ‘fight or flight system’, which increases heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure to help you respond when stress hits.

When it comes to reducing stress, the clue is in the name. You want to rest and digest, not fight or run away.

Walk, don’t run

When you do high-intensity exercises, such as sprints or a combat class, your body needs to kick things up a notch and so activates the fight or flight system. While the endorphin release may make you feel better in the short-term, it isn’t the stress-relieving activity that you might expect it to be.

Taking a gentle walk can be a much more effective method of stress relief. A 20-30 minute walk can release enough endorphins to help you feel relaxed and in control, without straying into the fight or flight zone.

Watch the video: Resilience | How stress affects your body and brain

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