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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Quick Tip: A Little Exercise Goes A Long Way...

By January 30, 2014

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Research has shown that exercise can be an effective stress reliever. (Read about some of those benefits here.) I experienced this very clearly when I practiced martial arts in the midst of a very stressful period of my life; I'd be a bundle of nerves when I'd arrive at the dojo, and the stress would just melt away after a while--I could never quite tell how long it took, because I was so focused on what I was doing--and I'd be peaceful and sweaty after a hard 40 minutes of kicks and punches.

For those who don't have the time or money to visit the gym as much as they'd like, can less intense workouts bring stress relief? What about just a few minutes? How short of an exercise session can one practice and still enjoy stress relief benefits? These were all questions that came up for me.

And these questions were largely answered in a recent study I was pleased to come across. College students were exposed to stress, asked to perform a very short-duration workout, and measured for stress relief effects afterward. The results made me want to jump for joy--for about three minutes. Here are the specifics of the study:

  • This quantitative and impirical study examined 102 male and female UCSD undergraduates who participated for course credit, and who completed a challenging math assignment and endured some harassment, and then either performed three minutes of cardiovascular exercise, or sat for three minutes, to measure the potential physiological effects of the exercise against a control group. Continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring was done throughout the study, and changes from an initial resting baseline were calculated. During the manipulation, blood pressure for exercisers was higher than for controls, but soon after the tasks were completed the participants who had exercised had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who had not exercised.
This research is encouraging because it shows just how effective exercise can be in relieving stress, by demonstrating the effect of quick exercise after a stressor. It's significant in that it shows how a quick (3 minutes) and convenient (after a stressor, rather than before) stress relief technique can be effective, not just regular and lengthy exercise sessions. We can truly grab a quick burst of exercise and feel less stressed after three minutes--talk about effective and convenient!

If this inspires you to get started with exercise, here are some resources to help you do so:

I used to think of exercise as something that needed to be practiced for at least 10 to 15 minutes before it made an impact. However, when I read the results of this research, I added 'exercise' to my short list of quick ways to relieve stress. Does it make you change the way you think about exercise? If so, how? Share your thoughts in the comments section, if you'd like, and feel free to visit the Facebook Page About Stress Management for more discussions and regular information on stress management.

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Quizzes | Ongoing Resources
Chafin, Sky; Gerin, William. (Jan. 2008). Improving cardiovascular recovery from stress with brief poststress exercise. Health Psychology, 27(1, Suppl.), S64-S72.
February 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm
(1) Nigel says:

A local campaign where I live is called ‘find 30′ – tries to encourage people to find 30 minutes every day to do something active and keep moving

August 23, 2012 at 1:01 am
(2) Breast Implants Brisbane says:

I like your blog about exercise. Iím completely agreed with you to keep exercise daily.

January 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm
(3) gitoya says:

any how i enjoy walking it for da wok help body keep up
any how they say that we walk in he name of G_O_D the pavement gets me going and hike walks are also fun too

February 13, 2013 at 5:22 am
(4) stress says:

Thanks for your comments, everyone. And I love the idea behind “Find 30″–SO much good can be done in 30 minutes! Here’s an article that can help you find some extra time in your day: http://stress.about.com/od/settingboundaries/ht/How-To-Cut-Down-On-Obligations-That-Cause-Stress.htm

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