All it takes is a quick sweat session after a long day to notice how exercise seems to melt stress away. And of all the health benefits, that’s one that can be achieved almost instantly, says Phillips.
“The thing that gets people to exercise and sustains them is not saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to exercise because I need to [prevent disease],’ but because it feels good,” he says. “It’s the immediate feedback that compels people, and one of the most immediate things people report is that their stress levels are reduced when they exercise.”
Beyond day-to-day stress, exercise can help relieve depression symptoms, too. In one study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, women who were experiencing depression who completed 200 minutes of walking a week (or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise) had improved mental health, social functioning, physical health, and vitality over time. Other research from the Harvard Special Health Report discovered that walking briskly for 35 minutes a day, fives time a week (or 60 minutes, three times a week) can significantly improve mild to moderate depression, while walking only 15 minutes a day, five times a week, or stretching three times a week are less effective.