Exercise Can Reduce Stress, But There’s A Catch According To Researchers

Physical exercise is often believed to be a stress reliever, but its benefits may not be the same for everyone, depending on the motivation for exercising. According to a recent research published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise, intrinsic motivation plays a crucial role in enhancing life satisfaction.

This sort of motivation is associated with engaging in an activity for its own sake, as opposed to extrinsic motivation, which is attached to the outcome of the action. It is conceivable and may be ideal to have both forms of motivation. Still, for stress-relieving benefits, the intrinsic drive is more crucial.

An example of an external incentive would be exercising to gain muscle or health advantages. To do this, you select an activity that provides intrinsic enjoyment, such as dance, weightlifting, martial arts, or HIIT workouts.

The Best Methods for Exercising Stress Away

Research Findings

In the latest study, researchers evaluated the stress levels and physical activity of 864 Swiss adolescents and young adults between the ages of 16 and 25. Ten months later, individuals who valued physical activity had lower levels of stress than their counterparts. There was no correlation between physical exercise and life pleasure.

According to senior researcher Silvia Meyer, Ph.D. (c) of the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, the most plausible explanation is that intrinsic drive promotes consistency and delivers mental health advantages, especially for young individuals.

“Provided that exercise is organically motivated, it may aid in stress management,” adds Dr. Meyer. “This is crucial for young people since adolescence is a difficult time of life and their vulnerability to stress is heightened.”

Intrinsic motivation is a major factor in generating happy emotions.

While extrinsic motivation has its place, such as when competition is used as a motivator, it may lead to disappointment if objectives are not met. In addition, it may be troublesome when extrinsic incentive is related to a negative outlook, such as feeling like a failure if the activity is ignored for the day.

“Physical exercise alone may not be adequate to counteract the losses in life satisfaction induced by increasing stress,” explains Dr. Meyer. “Intrinsic motivation is a crucial component of happy emotions.”

At Any Age

According to earlier research, even though the new study was conducted solely on young adults, the findings are likely applicable to everyone seeking a stress-relieving exercise program.

Researchers discovered that internal and external categories of exercises impact the brain in unique ways, with intrinsic-related activities enlarging the portion of the brain associated with contentment and pleasure.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, this form of motivation also makes you more likely to participate in regular exercise, which may reduce the chances of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression

Working It Out

If you haven’t yet discovered your source of intrinsic motivation for exercise, Mike Matthews, CPT, author of The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, recommends continuing to explore different activities.

“The first step in finding an activity you like is to conceive of this as establishing a lifestyle, which may require engaging in many forms of exercise,” he explains. This involves recognizing when you’re actually enjoying an activity for its own sake and then incorporating more of it into your training routine.

He advocates doing an exercise for at least a couple of months to see if it “sticks,” and you learn to anticipate such sessions.

There are so many methods to acquire and remain active that there is no need to continue doing something that doesn’t excite you.

Similarly, Matthews suggests that it may be time to break ways with a pastime that you once cherished but no longer enjoy. As people age, their tastes vary, and it is often necessary to be truthful about how you feel about your typical routine.

“There are so many methods to acquire and remain active that there is no need to continue doing something that does not excite you,” he adds.


Finding an activity you like may play a crucial role in reducing stress, particularly if it increases consistency. Consider concepts that you will be able to sustain over time. Additionally, you should see a healthcare professional before starting a new workout plan.

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