When we are stressed and would like to relax, we often think of taking it easy, watching television or making a Sudoku puzzle. There are other ways of learning how to relax as well, such as mindfulness, yoga and time management. Yet, have you ever thought that an effective way of relaxing might be exertion?

Why exercise?
Exercising is the most natural response to stress. When you experience stress, your body prepares itself to come into action: the fight-or-flight response. It is especially unhealthy to bottle up stress. Exercise causes your heart to pump faster, your muscles to tighten and relax, your joints to jump into action, and your breathing to speed up. In this way, your body burns off the stress hormones, so to say, and produces neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine. These cause, among other things, an improvement of your mood and your ability to relax. Regular exercise also improves your ability to concentrate and the quality of your sleep. Exercising to combat stress takes little time while the health benefits are big. On top of this, employees who engage in sufficient exercise become ill less often, perform better and recuperate faster. For these reasons, in particular, supporting vitality and enduring availability is interesting to employers.

Too little exercise has negative health effects such as an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, pain complaints and possibly even cancer. The more you sit during the day, the more you risk symptoms of depression. When you do not exercise at all, the risk that you will start to experience depressed feelings even increases three times. (Bron) Depressed feelings cause stress: less patience, headaches, fretting, uncertainty and sleeping badly. We often do not recognize these symptoms as stress and do not think of exercising more but, just the opposite, think of eating more, drinking more and watching more television.

No less than 36% of all work-related sickness absence is caused by work stress. This amounts to 7,555,000 days of absence or almost 21,000 FTE. One million Dutch suffer from burnout symptoms. On average, in the course of four years, employees who do exercise are absent twenty days less than colleagues who do not exercise. This effect is greatest with respect to sedentary work.