I had always heard that if you were stressed or anxious or even depressed, you should exercise regularly but never understood why. When your body gets stressed depending on the level of stress and the cause of stress, your body goes into a fight or flight mode. This causes your heart to beat faster, your blood to pump harder and the need to breathe in more oxygen.
Cardiovascular exercises, which help your heart and blood vessels develop, have significant benefits. First, the muscles in your heart strengthen, especially if you are able to take your heart rate close to your desired maximum. Second, the total volume of blood in your body increases increasing the ability of your body to absorb oxygen. Third, the capacity of your lungs increases as your body has to “strain” to take in more oxygen to compensate for the oxygen deficit in your body. When you physically stress your body, you release endorphins (think of them as lovely dolphins coming to your rescue). The combined impact creates the capacity in your body to weather shocks created by stress, both emotional and physical. Put another way, this is training your body to deal with the effects of stress without actually being stressed.
When you are in a heightened emotional state your heart rate can race up to even 200 beats per minute, especially if you experience a shock or a fright. Severe emotional distress can have the same effect even over long periods. Many of us have experienced this as “our pulse is racing.” Your ability to deal with this depends on the time and effort you have put into training your body. So run, if you are not already.
Disclaimer: the cause of stress and level of stress can vary widely. There is no silver bullet to dealing with stress and a wholesome living is probably your best bet. However, cardio exercises help.