A fitness expert advises that exercise enhances feelings of well-being and should play a significant role in your strategy for stress management.

Stress is usually referred to in a negative light, although it is not always a negative. Exercise training to improve health or performance, for example, is a positive stress that facilitates positive changes.

Exercise should play a significant role in stress management.

But work, commuting, finances, health concerns, disagreements with family and friends and worries about politics and the world can all impart negative strain.

Over time, chronic negative stress is likely to damage physical and mental health.

Eliminating these stressors is practically impossible. Managing them is not. Developing a stress management strategy is essential to your long-term health and happiness. And exercise should play a significant role.

Exercise for Stress Management

In the case of a major life event such as the death of a loved one, difficulty with family or serious work concerns, exercise may be helpful, but turning to a mental health expert is the best option. For everyday stress management, exercise is one of the best tools available.

Perhaps the most common obstacle to reaping its widespread benefits is finding time to fit it in. Busy schedules are notorious for pushing aside exercise in favor of just about everything else!

Try five minutes of some physical activity every day.

If you find yourself doing this, try starting with a small, manageable daily goal. I suggest something as small as five minutes of some physical activity every day. It could be a five-minute walk, a couple of strength training exercises or a couple of minutes of foam rolling and stretching. Start small and get yourself in the habit of doing something on most days, if not every day. This is fundamental to an ongoing plan for keeping your stress in check.

Bigger Dose, Better Results

Once you have made your daily activity into a routine, start thinking about increasing your activity to have a greater positive effect. Managing stress with exercise follows the same guidelines for improving health and fitness.

Try 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise five days per week. If you find that to be challenging, break it up into 10-minute segments. A short walk can often be just the thing needed to clear your head and feel better after a stressful event.

Exercise enhances feelings of well-being by positively altering hormones.

Also remember that not every workout needs to be “perfect.” When time is scarce, it’s better to do a compact workout rather than skipping it.

Exercise enhances feelings of well-being by positively altering hormones. After exercise, stress hormones like cortisol are reduced and mood-boosting endorphins are elevated. Over time, exercise improves a variety of conditions like arthritis and diabetes. It also lowers the risk of heart disease and certain cancers and alleviates symptoms of menopause.

As your health and fitness improves and you feel better, your confidence will rise. All of this will make you more resilient, helping you to manage those day-to-day stresses.

Mike Bento is an advanced trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in human movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist.