Feeling stressed? Research is proving that working out is more effective than vegging out in front of the TV to feel calm and in control of whatever life throws your way.

It’s already accepted that exercise increases your overall health and sense of well-being, but it also has direct stress-busting benefits, which include:

Boosting your endorphins. Physical activity helps to increase production of endorphins – your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Although typically referred to as a “runner’s high,” any sustained form of physical activity can produce this positive effect.

Improving focus. After exercise, you’ll often find that your dwelling on the day’s stresses has been replaced by more of a concentration on your body’s movements during your workout routine. As you shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus and the energy and optimism that result can carry over to help you remain calm and clear-headed in situations that usually trigger stress.

Improving mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and diminish the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety, thus reinforcing its significant physical and emotional benefits.

Improving physiological resiliency. Research suggests that physical activity may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress. That is, people who get more exercise may become less affected by the stress they face, and attain increased immunity toward future stress.

If you’re not already a Future Fitness member, here’s how to start a successful exercise program and make stress a thing of the past:

  • Consult with your health care professional to address any medical conditions that may affect your ability to engage in certain kinds of physical activities
  • Build up your fitness level gradually – overdoing it can cause injury or a sense of being overwhelmed, which can lead to giving up on your program
  • Find an activity you enjoy – Future Fitness offers more than 85 classes and programs for all ages and fitness levels, so you’re sure to find something that will keep you enthusiastic and motivated
  • Work out with others – you’ll have a greater sense of commitment to your goals, and a greater sense of involvement if you’re part of a class or program filled with other like-minded people