Lifestyle Medicine for Stress | Part 2


Dr. Aaron Hartman

May 30, 2023


Last week we started this series on lifestyle medicine for stress. As we know, unmitigated stress has been linked to various diseases. I see its effects in my clinic every day, so I think that it’s incredibly important to talk about this elephant in the room. Physical exercise is another powerful intervention to help mitigate the effects of stress.

Exercise Reduces Anxiety & Depression

Exercise is mother nature’s natural anti-anxiety medication.

We know that exercise by itself works better than SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft for decreasing anxiety and depression. It’s interesting to note that when medical trials are performed for anxiety and depression medication, exercise is not used as a placebo because we know how well it works.

Lifestyle Medicine for Stress: Exercise

Exercise Reduces Cortisol

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce elevated cortisol levels. Engaging in regular physical activity, such as running, cycling, weightlifting, or yoga can actually burn off some of the cortisol that builds up in our bodies throughout the day. One of the best ways to burn off cortisol, your stress hormone, is to engage in regular physical activity.

Exercise also aids in improving sleep through this reduction in cortisol. Physical activity can prepare your body for a good night’s rest, which we also know helps with stress management as well.

Combining exercise with time spent outside gives this cortisol-lowering effect an extra boost!

Lifestyle Medicine for Stress: Exercise

Exercise Reduces Perceived Stress Levels

Studies have shown that regular physical activity can be even more helpful than mindfulness meditation when it comes to reducing perceived stress levels. Exercise helps to promote healthy blood flow and release endorphins, which can help elevate mood and energy levels. Furthermore, it allows you to take a break from the mental strain of work or other stressors and focus on your body instead. This can give you time to reset and clear your mind before tackling the problem again with a fresh perspective.

Incorporating various types of exercise into your daily routine – such as running, yoga, weightlifting, or even taking a walk – is a great way to maintain balance in both body and mind and manage stress more effectively.

Would you like to learn more about managing stress to improve your health? Check out this book on our Recommended Reading List: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky PhD.

Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.


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