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Simple exercises that help with stress and anxiety

Father and his two daughter morning exercise at home.

Take a step back and try these exercises when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

It’s not easy to live a stress-free life. In fact—according to a recent survey—anxiety affects over 40 million Americans each year [1]. We can’t control the things that cause us to feel stressed or anxious, but we can control how we cope with those feelings. Exercise is a proven way to manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

How exercising helps manage stress and anxiety

Exercise benefits our bodies and minds! When we exercise, our bodies produce mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins naturally reduce the perception of pain or stress in the body and leave us feeling happy and energized. Exercise also decreases our levels of adrenaline and cortisol (commonly referred to as “stress hormones”). It’s no surprise that people who include exercise as part of their daily routines experience fewer stress and anxiety symptoms in both the short and long term.

Simple exercises to help reduce stress and anxiety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthy adults get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week [2]. If 150 minutes feels like a lot, it’s OK to start smaller! Adding in any amount of activity will help boost your mood.

Next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, give these exercises a try:

  • Go for a walk. Taking a brisk walk is a great way to get your heart pumping. Try walking around your neighborhood or at a nearby park. If that doesn’t sound fun, taking a friend with you or calling a family member can make the time fly by.
  • Work out at home. If the weather is gloomy and you don’t have access to a gym, try an at-home workout instead. There are plenty of free resources available online that can help you get started. You can also try building your own home workout plan.
  • Dance it out! Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Try turning up your favorite music and having
    a little fun!

Where to find support

If you’d like additional health management resources, the RxWell app might be for you! RxWell is a mobile app that offers self-paced programs focused on improving your physical and emotional well-being. It is available to all UPMC Health Plan members (ages 16 and up) at no cost. RxWell currently offers programs about stress, anxiety, depression, weight management, nutrition, and physical activity. All of RxWell’s programs come with the help of a care manager to provide personalized support—right from the app. Take the first step toward improving your health by downloading RxWell from the Apple App Store or Google Play today!

For additional support for depression, anxiety, substance use, ADHD, grief management, pain management, or other behavioral health issues, call the UPMC Health Plan Behavioral Health Services line at 1-888-777-8754 (TTY: 711).


1Facts and Statistics. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. No date. Accessed April 13, 2021.

2How much physical activity do adults need?. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oct. 7, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2021.

Further resources

Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. No date. Accessed April 13, 2021. Physical Activity Reduces Stress. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. No date. Accessed April 13, 2021.