Effects of physical exercise on anxiety and stress


Physical exercise is engaging in physical activities to improve or maintain one’s general health and wellbeing. Regular physical exercise helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Despite several benefits, it causes fatigue as people get tired after physical exercises—excess engagement in physical results in a lack of sleep due to fatigue. Despite physical exercise being the source of fatigue, it reduces stress and anxiety by improving the mental health of individuals and improves cognitive functioning and health at large.

Literature review

Effects of physical exercise on different age groups

Churchill et al. (2021) research conducted a randomized control experiment with elderly persons (50 years and over) who were confined to their homes because of the Covid 19 epidemic. Churchill et al. (2021) examine the various degrees of stress experienced by these individuals during and before the Covid 19 outbreak. Because of the limitations, Churchil et al. (2021) discovered that these persons are more stressed during Covid 19 than previously. Duncan et al. (2020) linked their argument to Churchill (2021) by saying that there was a perceived change in the levels of physical exercise during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Duncan et al. (2020) state that the decrease in physical activity levels was associated with increased stress and anxiety levels during the Covid 19 pandemic. According to Duncan et al. (2020), increased physical exercise is not associated with low stress and anxiety levels. In contrast, Churchill et al. (2021) gave results from their research by stating that the levels of physical exercise are associated with stress and anxiety in adults. Kim and Mckenzi (2014) hooks up with Churchill et al (2021) by giving the effects of physical exercise to learners. Kim and Mckenzi (2014) suggest that physical exercise to learners improves their positive emotions as they feel contented after engaging in physical exercise. Physical exercise also improves the self esteem of students.

Churchill et al. (2021) explore on Anderson’s idea that physical exercise reduces stress by stating its benefits on adults. According to Churchill et al. (2021), Physical exercise has been an efficient method of reducing stress in adults and therefore improving their wellbeingwellbeing and independence. Studies have shown that adults who engage in regular physical activity have fewer problems with depressive disorders. Regular physical activity may reduce stress-inducing activities or future mental health effects. Mandolesi et al. (2019) address the idea of Anderson (2013) by stating the effects of physical exercise on the reasoning of an individual.

Effects of less involvement in physical exercise on mental health

According to Duncan et al. (2020), physical exercise or activity aids in improving the mental health of an individual. Duncan et al. (2020) address this by referring to the state of mental health during the Covid 19 pandemic. Churchill et al. (2021) link up to Duncan’s argument by saying that physical exercise improves the mental health of adults and it is the recommended remedy to cure mental illness. Duncan et al. (2020) study findings reveal that the Covid 19 mitigations such as physical distancing harmed the mental health of individuals. Covid 19 pandemic mitigation strategies affected physical exercise and mental wellbeingwellbeing, with less active individuals having high-stress levels.

Application of Physical exercise in healthcare settings

Nyberg et al. (2019) explore Duncan’s study by addressing the effects of physical exercise on mental health patients under primary care. Nyberg et al. (2019 study focuses on the effects of physical exercise on anxiety, cognitive function, and mental health in patients under primary care. Kandola et al. (2019) assert Nyberg’s study by stating that physical exercise is one of the remedies for treating anxiety and mental illness.

According to Kandola et al. (2019), those with anxiety problems are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Treatment for illnesses linked to anxiety disorders thus includes medication and other treatments. Anderson and Geetha (2013) explore Kandola’s study by reflecting on the effects of physical exercise or activity on anxiety. Anderson and Geetha’s (2013) study state that physical exercise helps in reducing the levels of anxiety and reduces the levels of individuals suffering from chronic stress. Add on to Anderson and Geetha’s (2013) study, frequent exercise results in physiological effects and adaptability of the human body, reducing the risks of getting diseases.

Effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning

 According to Mandolesi et al. (2013), physical exercise is a powerful gene modulator that affects brain structure and function, significantly impacting cognitive performance and overall wellbeingwellbeing. Kandola et al. (2018) study suggest that physical exercise positively impacts both the physical and psychological state of an individual as it reduces the risk of health complications.

According to Anderson and Geetha (2013), physical exercise plays a vital role in preventing chronic stress. Individuals who engage in regular physical activity are less likely to suffer from memory and cognitive impairment as they get older. According to Anderson and Geetha (2013), exercise has enhanced learning and memory in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

According to Mandolesi et al. (2018), physical exercises positively impact the cognitive functioning of an individual by reducing the levels of stress and anxiety. Mondolesi et al. (2018) address neuroplasticity as one of the important biological effects of physical exercise. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the human brain to recognize new information or connection easily. Mondolesi (2018) adds to his argument by saying that neuroplasticity is an important feature in the human brain found in the nervous system. Therefore physical exercise is one of the environmental factors that promote neuroplasticity.

Anderson and Geeth (2013) added to Mandolesi et al. (2018) argument by basing their argument on the biological relationship between physical exercise and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. HPA plays a vital role in developing responses to both physical and psychological stressors.

Anderson and Geeth (2013) argue about the effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning by relating this to the social cognitive theory. According to the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), which has been applied in fields including sociology, education, and communication, according to Anderson and Geeth (2013), a person’s ability to learn can be influenced by their interactions with others, their own experiences, and the media.


 In conclusion, physical exercise is an effective natural therapy for anxiety and stress. Endorphins are released during exercise, which reduces stress and anxiety, increases physical and mental vitality, and improves overall wellbeingwellbeing. An individual benefit from physical exercise as the rates of anxiety and stress get reduced. Physical exercise reduces stress and anxiety by improving an individual’s cognitive functioning and improving mental health at large. Therefore regular physical exercises should be encouraged to the people in the community to reduce the rates of mental illness and ensure a healthy lifestyle free from diseases.


Anderson, E., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Frontiers In Psychiatry, 4. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027

Alderman, B., Brush, C., & Ehmann, P. (2019). Effects of exercise on anxiety and stress-sensitive psychopathology. APA Handbook Of Sport And Exercise Psychology, Volume 2: Exercise Psychology (Vol. 2)., 345-362. DOI: 10.1037/0000124-018

Churchill, R., Riadi, I., Kervin, L., Teo, K., & Cosco, T. (2021). Deciphering the role of physical activity in stress management during a global pandemic in older adult populations: a systematic review protocol. Systematic Reviews, 10(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13643-021-01678-6

Duncan, G., Avery, A., Seto, E., & Tsang, S. (2020). Perceived change in physical activity levels and mental health during COVID-19: Findings among adult twin pairs. PLOS ONE, 15(8), e0237695. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237695

Kandola, A., Vancampfort, D., Herring, M., Rebar, A., Hallgren, M., Firth, J., & Stubbs, B. (2018). Moving to Beat Anxiety: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Issues with Physical Activity for Anxiety. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20(8). DOI: 10.1007/s11920-018-0923-x

Kim, J., & McKenzie, L. (2014). The Impacts of Physical Exercise on Stress Coping and Well-Being in University Students in the Context of Leisure. Health, 06(19), 2570-2580. DOI: 10.4236/health.2014.619296

Mandolesi, L., Polverino, A., Montuori, S., Foti, F., Ferraioli, G., Sorrentino, P., & Sorrentino, G. (2018). Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and WellbeingWellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Frontiers In Psychology, 9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00509

Mental Health Foundation. (2022). Mental health statistics: stress. Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved 20 March 2022, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress.

National alliance of mental illness. (2022). Anxiety Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. Retrieved 19 March 2022, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders.

Nyberg, J., Henriksson, M., Åberg, N., Wall, A., Eggertsen, R., & Westerlund, M. et al. (2019). Effects of exercise on symptoms of anxiety, cognitive ability and sick leave in patients with anxiety disorders in primary care: study protocol for PHYSBI, a randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 19(1). DOI: 10.1186/s12888-019-2169-5










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