Anxiety and Physical Exercise - The Effects of Running on Cortisol

Anxiety and physical exercise

Stressful situations are more and more frequent. Because of this, anxiety as a disorder has grown exponentially in recent years. Currently, more than 40 million people suffer from anxiety in the world.

Physical exercise has potential benefits in regulating the stress hormone cortisol. It is one of the best methods to solve this problem. The following article describes how and how much training affects cortisol levels.

How does exercise affect the mind?

Research linked anxiety to physical exercise and concludes that regular physical activity positively regulates cortisol levels. (3) (4)

In particular, it is helpful for people with mild and moderate anxiety levels. It is known that the regular practice of physical exercise leads to the release of different chemical compounds capable of improving mood and being less sensitive to problems.

Training regularly improves not only muscles but also the cardiovascular and nervous systems. The physical state impacts the mind more than it is believed.

When a person feels that his body works well, so makes his mind; this is easy to verify by just trying to change his habits for a week.

When a stressful situation occurs in everyday life, the body must turn to hormones to react better. However, if these situations are maintained for long periods, severe disorders may appear in the body.

What are the effects of running on cortisol?

Regular physical activity can reduce cortisol levels. When running moderately, classes can be reduced by 10-20% (1) (2)

Any physical activity produces endorphins and sex hormones related to mental well-being.

Endorphins trigger metabolic processes inverse to the production of cortisol. The result: the improvement of the quality of sleep, the normalization of the feeling of hunger, and the relaxation of the mind. It is a fact that anxiety and physical exercise are closely related concepts.

Mental Fitness – A New Concept?

The word fitness has always been directly associated with physical fitness and the improvement of the musculature. However, its literal translation is performance. So currently, in other areas such as economics and psychology, the term mental fitness is also used to describe a sound performance of the mind.

Practicing some physical activity improves the fitness of the muscular type and allows the mind to react better to a stressful situation.

Research has confirmed improved concentration, fatigue, memory, and cognitive perception in people who exercise regularly. (4)

How much exercise do you have to do to calm anxiety?

Most studies recommend at least 20-30 minutes of physical exercise per day. (1) (2) In case of not being able to apply this routine, it is suggested to replace it with at least two and a half hours of moderate training per week.

Expert psychologists suggest that even about 10 minutes of walking per day effectively reduces cortisol levels. Its effects are similar to running 45 minutes per day. If the walk is outdoors, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin levels will increase.

The best exercises to reduce anxiety:

One run

Running is one of the best exercises to reduce anxiety. This is explained due to the hormonal release that occurs at the end of a running session. Repetitive running movements have a similar effect to meditation on the brain. Running is excellent when the goal is to reduce anxiety and practice physical exercise.

2. Yoga

Yoga is a discipline where the emphasis is placed on breathing, so it is one of the first options for physical exercise to reduce anxiety and calm the mind. Yoga teachers recommend practicing yoga every day. To improve mental fitness, it is recommended to include it at least two times a week.

  1. Outdoor cycling

The positive effect of improving anxiety symptoms when cycling outdoors has been proven. In particular when pedaling surrounded by plants and trees. (3) Apparently, there may be a correlation between a positive effect of fallen tree trunks with people. These release a molecule that slows down the decomposition process of the tree itself and can have the effect of calming the human mind.


  • Anxiety and physical exercise are two closely related concepts. Practicing physical activity regularly is an effective strategy to combat anxiety disorder.
  • Ten minutes of daily walking helps to disperse the mind and helps lower cortisol levels.
  • The combination of a healthy diet with physical exercise outdoors (running, yoga, cycling). They are one of the best methods to combat anxiety naturally.

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