It is well known that exercise helps to alleviate stress. In fact, the American Council on Exercise reminds Americans that one of the most effective methods of stress relief is exercise. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Association endorses exercise as a way to reduce stress, and recommends cardiovascular exercise that elevates the heart rate for 15 to 30 minutes - three to four times per week.

Physically, exercise improves your cardiovascular functions by strengthening and enlarging the heart, causing greater elasticity of the blood vessels, increasing oxygen throughout your body, and lowering your blood levels of fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition to reducing stress, exercising also decreases the chance of developing heart conditions, strokes, or high blood pressure.

Mentally, exercise provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration, anger and irritability, promoting a more positive mood and outlook. Exercise improves mood by producing positive biochemical changes in the body and brain. Regular exercise reduces the amount of adrenal hormones your body releases in response to stress. Also, with exercise, your body releases greater amounts of endorphins, the powerful, pain-relieving, mood-elevating chemicals in the brain. Depressed people often lack these neurochemicals. Endorphins are natural pain killers and also help lift your mood.

While different forms of exercise have different benefits, there is no one best exercise for stress relief. It all depends on your individual skills and interests. Determine whether you prefer exercising alone or doing activities with others. If the exercise is too easy, you will get bored. If it's too strenuous you will just feel more anxious and stressed. The key is discovering what works best for you and finding the right balance. Most importantly, choose activities that you enjoy and that are available and feasible for you to do regularly.

Aromatherapy can add a pleasant dimension to exercising. Diffusing essential oils into the atmosphere while working out is very energizing physically, mentally and emotionally. Try Eucalyptus, Lime, Peppermint or Spearmint essential oils to uplift and energize you as you work out. We tend to repeat experiences that we enjoy and scent creates powerful associations which can help us establish pleasurable rituals combining stimulating aromas and exercise.

It's always a good idea to see your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you have not exercised regularly for some time, begin slowly with low impact exercise and gradually increase your activity. If you experience any adverse side effects like cramps, dizziness or chest pain, stop exercising and consult your physician.

Thinking of exercise as a form of self care instead of a burden or unpleasant task can assist you in establishing a permanent place for fitness in your life. Exercise is a great way to ease your tension, release anxieties, clear your mind and keep your systems functioning properly. After a short time of consistent exercise you will feel so much better, you'll wonder what took you so long to get started. Enjoy!

Author's Bio: 

Susan Stewart is co-founder and partner of It’s My Nature, a home based business in Florence, Oregon that provides Aromatherapy and Herbal Comforts. See their large, informative website at or a catalog is available by calling 1-888-445-5051. Monthly newsletter.