Home Health & Wellness How Weightlifting and Strength Training Can Relieve Stress

How Weightlifting and Strength Training Can Relieve Stress

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Everyone is stressed out most of the time and that’s just become our way of life. We don’t even notice it as much because we’re used to it and we forget that’s not how life should look. The good thing is, there are a lot of ways to deal with stress: you can relax and watch a movie, take a hot bath, go for a walk, or you can hit the gym and lift some weights. That’s right, you read that correctly – weightlifting and strength training can help with stress. 

You probably have a mental image of a super-buff guy when somebody mentions weightlifting but making you buff is not all it does. When you engage in strength training, your body releases endorphins that boost your mood and reduce stress. Let’s see what exactly you should do when stress comes knocking and taking a bath doesn’t quite hit the spot. 

How stress affects your body

Stress isn’t just annoying; it affects every aspect of your being. We deal with stress as a consequence of tight deadlines, worrying about money, having issues in our relationships, etc. regardless of the cause for stress, all of our bodies do the same: they spring into action and release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones trigger the fight-or-flight response, which, although useful for survival or in threatening situations, becomes problematic when stress becomes chronic. 

Short bursts of stress from time to time are normal and they won’t do any real damage. Chronic stress, on the other hand, will wear you down mentally and physically. Mentally, chronic stress can manifest as anxiety, depression, irritability, and problems with concentration. It can mess with your sleeping patterns so you wake up drained and tired, and you’ll find it hard to go about your day. It can also impact your physical health in the form of muscle tension, headaches, stomach problems, and a weakened immune system. It can even make you gain weight, especially around the midsection. 

But beyond these immediate symptoms, chronic stress will simply ruin your well-being over time and disrupt any sense of balance and purpose your life has. Little by little, it will take over every single area of your life if you don’t find a way to deal with it. 

Exercise and stress relief

Exercising is a fantastic way to fight against stress. It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise it is; your brain and body will still go through a series of changes that will alleviate stress. The key thing is that it releases endorphins, which are your body’s “feel-good” hormones. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain, reduce the perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling similar to that of morphine. It probably sounds too good to be true, but that’s really what happens when you work out. 

Aside from endorphins, exercising increases the production of some other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are connected to mood regulation and pleasure. These chemical changes that happen in your brain add to the sense of well-being, relaxation, and overall happiness that many people feel after a good workout. 

When you’re physically active, your cortisol levels go down, and cortisol is the primary stress hormone. Exercise helps with muscle tension and elevated heart rate, which are physical symptoms of stress, and it will help you sleep better, which is important for both physical and mental health. 

How weightlifting and strength training reduce stress

Being stressed and then lifting weights might seem counterintuitive, but if you give it a try, you’ll notice it offers relief from the burdens of your daily life and offers even more benefits than some other forms of exercise. Let’s see what some of them are. 

  • Endorphin release. Weightlifting and strength training will make your body release endorphins, which people often call natural painkillers. Endorphins lead to feelings of euphoria and pleasure and they boost your mood. This can counteract any feelings of stress and anxiety and leave you feeling relaxed and content.
  • Better sleep. Lifting weights on a regular basis has been linked to better sleep. This means that your stress hormone levels go down throughout the night because your sleep is deep and restorative. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll feel refreshed instead of drained and grouchy.
  • More confidence and self-esteem. People who work out tend to set goals for themselves, so when you see your strength and abilities improve over time, you get a sense of accomplishment that gives you a big confidence boost.
  • Relief of physical symptoms. Stress would be easier to handle if it didn’t have physical symptoms, but unfortunately, you’ll probably notice at least a headache when you get stressed. Weightlifting and strength training give you the opportunity to release tension through targeted exercises that will stretch and activate different muscle groups. This will result in feeling more relaxed and you’ll get relief from the physical symptoms of stress you were experiencing.

FAQ

  • How often do I need to strength train in order to relieve stress? You want at least 2–3 sessions a week and make sure to include a variety of exercises in your routine. When it comes to getting any benefits from exercising, mental or physical, you need to stay consistent.
  • Are there any specific exercises that are more effective for stress relief? Any strength training exercises will be effective, but compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench presses) engage multiple muscle groups at the same time, so they trigger a significant release of endorphins. You can also try exercises that focus on controlled, rhythmic movements (yoga, tai chi, etc.) that will reduce stress because they promote mindfulness and relaxation.

Takeaway

A little bit of stress, under the right conditions, and if you utilise the stress to your advantage, can be quite a motivating force. But, if you’re stressed all the time, it’ll definitely show in other areas of your life. It’ll affect you and, through you, people around you. Stress has its own way when it comes to the deterioration of your mental health as well as your physical health, so we need to be aware of it. But also, be cautious. 

If you don’t like dealing with stress or you find that the people in your life are suffering the consequences and thereby damaging important relationships, the good news is that there’s an easy remedy. It’s not just for show when someone tells you to go punch off some steam when you’re under pressure. That’s because if works. So, next time you find yourself stressed out, get up from the couch, grab some weights and start exercising. This might seem bothersome or tedious at first, but never underestimate the ability of your body to adapt. Before you know it, you’ll be craving that exercise. And once you realise how much better your mood is, you’ll never skip a workout again.




Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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