Let’s say you had a stressful day and are looking forward to a comfortable evening on the couch so you can decompress.

That’s all well and good, but as we will explain below, exercise is a more effective way to combat stress. So you should probably get in a workout before you veg out in front of the TV.

What is stress?

Stress is a normal physical reaction in which your body sounds an alarm. It signals that you are facing a threat and have to react fast. Your body releases stress hormones, your pulse quickens and your muscles tense – your body goes into red alert.

From an evolutionary perspective, this state means it is time for “fight or flight.” The energy that has built up is channeled into one of these responses and used up.

Nowadays, of course, we rarely have to run away from an enemy or attack an opponent in battle. On the contrary, when we have a stress reaction we usually don’t respond physically; instead, we just want to rest. But this means that our bodies cannot deal with the surge of energy properly and the stress hormones have nowhere to go.

It is true that spending your evening on the couch is a form of relaxation that allows stress hormones to dissipate gradually, but this happens much more slowly than it would if you got moving. Gradually your breathing, pulse and heart rate will normalize again, but your muscles remain tense and the stress hormones continue to circulate through your body.

On the other hand, if you get up and exercise, your body produces endorphins and serotonin, which counteract the stress hormones.

If you never work off the energy that has built up because of stress, it can cause exhaustion in the long run. This can lead to problems with your physical and mental health, like difficulties concentrating, insomnia, or gastrointestinal complaints.

Three reasons to hit the gym instead of the couch

1. Exercise is a natural energy booster

Exercise stimulates the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, which can give your mental energy and creativity a boost. Try it and see if a workout doesn’t clear your head and make room for new ideas and inspiration.

2. Exercise makes you more resistant to stress

Regular exercise helps your body regulate its stress levels by activating your metabolism. This helps your body learn to release stress hormones more effectively, making it more resistant.

3. Exercise gets your mind off your problems

While you are working out you focus on the exercise, which distracts you from the other problems in your life. Issues that were weighing you down can be looked at with fresh eyes and tackled with new energy.

So get going.