Skip to main content
Find An Activity Marker Find An Activity

How physical activity can help with stress

We know that physical activity is great for our bodies, but it can also be hugely beneficial to our minds.

Being active can increase our self-esteem and can reduce anxiety and stress. Endorphins released during exercise also help you to feel better as they trigger a positive feeling in the body.

When dealing with stress, it may be difficult to find the motivation or time to get active. We’ve put together some tips to help you find a way that suits you to get moving.


Reducing cortisol levels

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. Whilst it plays an important role in the body’s stress response, high levels of cortisol over an extended period of time can have negative effects on our health.

Cortisol can impact physical activity levels by reducing motivation and energy levels. This can make it more difficult to engage in regular exercise, which can further exacerbate the negative effects of cortisol on the body.

One way to counteract this is to engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. These activities can help reduce cortisol levels and improve mood and energy levels, making it easier to engage in regular physical activity.

Regular exercise itself can also help reduce cortisol levels and improve overall stress levels. However, it’s important to strike a balance between exercise and recovery, as excessive exercise can lead to an increase in cortisol levels and exacerbate the negative effects of stress on the body. Read more here.


A man walking a dog.


Getting active

When exercising, it’s important to know how much you should be doing and how often.

Check out the NHS’s exercise guidelines for advice on this. If you have a health condition, please contact your doctor or health professional before starting a new exercise or sport.

Mind have some brilliant advice on getting active to benefit mental health. They’ve got tips on choosing an activity to suit you, useful contacts and more.

We have also put together some small, easy ways to get active for you to try.


Spending time around nature

Getting outdoors whilst being active has even more benefits. Being around nature can help improve your mood; why not try a new spot or a route you haven’t done in a while?

Or why not try walking sometimes when you usually drive, such as when taking the children to school. Try to take in your surroundings and enjoy the scenery and fresh air.

Putting yourself in motion helps you step back from the fast pace of modern life, particularly when outdoors.

We have put together some tips for getting started with running, as well as advice for getting started with cycling.


A woman stretching whilst outdoors.

Image by Sport England.


Trying a new activity

There are plenty of ways you can get moving whilst having fun; one example is by having a dance!

You may want to start going to dance sessions, or you could have a dance at home or in the garden when it suits you. Put on a new playlist or some of your favourite songs that get you moving, and have a dance around the house.

Swimming is a relaxing activity as you can choose the pace you go. It’s also brilliant way to keep active as it gives you an all-round workout, working almost every part of your body. Check out our tips for getting started with swimming.

Yoga is a slower paced relaxing activity which you can do at a session, or online at home. You can find some online yoga videos on our Activity Finder, or on YouTube.


We hope this has helped you find an activity to try, or inspired you to get moving in a new way or a way you used to. However you do get active, remember to take it at your pace, and in a way you enjoy!