How physical exercise can help with stress management

In partnership with TALKWORKS


How physical exercise can help with stress management: In partnership with TALKWORKS

For National Stress Awareness Day, Exeter Leisure have partnered with the team at TALKWORKS to explore the impact of exercise on our physical and mental well-being and shine a light on the incredible work that they’re doing for adults across Devon.

Short and long-term stress can impact both our mental and physical well-being, but recognising stress in our lives isn’t always easy. Stress Awareness Day is a small reminder to check in with yourself. Would you like to talk about what’s happening in your life? Are you coping with everyday stressors in a healthy way, or would you like to seek help? Just one small interference can do a lot to break a downwards spiral for yourself or someone you know.

This is where TALKWORKS comes in. TALKWORKS is part of the NHS and can provide free therapy and wellbeing support for adults over the age of 18, living in Devon (excluding Plymouth which has its own service called Plymouth Options), to help get you back on track. Treatment and support include access to one-to-one sessions with a therapist, group therapy sessions, wellbeing workshops and online self-help. Therapy can be delivered face-to-face at one of their bases across Devon or can be carried out remotely over the phone or by video call.

You don’t need a referral from a GP to access TALKWORKS’ services, you can refer yourself online or over the phone. For more information on the different treatment options and therapy services, please visit the TALKWORKS website or call 0300 555 3344.



Not all stress is bad stress:

When you exercise the body releases feel good hormones called endorphins- this is what gives you a ‘high’ after a work-out. But did you know that your body also produces hormones typically associated with stress when your heart rate is raised?

When your body feels a surge in effort it produces adrenaline and cortisol, the two main hormones connected to stress. Exercise can be a powerful tool to help manage the impact of stress as the body can start to improve the way it handles these stress hormones.

And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference, if you’re new to exercise being active for at least 20 minutes a day can have a significant impact. It’s enough to calm anxiety, lift your mood and boost your energy.


Concentrating on a single task:

Attending a group exercise class, especially one that encourages you to focus your effort on a single physical task, can have a great impact on stress levels. It’s perfectly normal to start the class feeling distracted and possibly a little stressed about the unknown. But once you start following along to the instructions, surrounded by a group of people trying to do the same, it’s easy to become immersed and before you know it you’re thinking of nothing else. This small relief is not to be underestimated- focusing on a physical activity can help you to feel optimistic, increase your energy and provide a sense of clarity and calmness.


Connect with nature:

You don’t need to do an intense work-out to feel the benefits of exercise on stress levels. Any form of movement that helps you break a stressful cycle is hugely beneficial. Going for a walk, particularly outside in nature, can help you gain perspective and diminish the impact of stressors. This is especially true for those who work on a screen all day and whose stress is often work related. As well as connecting with nature, this is also a good chance to connect with a friend. You can turn your walk into a social event, invite someone along, take a flask of tea and try to take the opportunity to talk, listen and connect.




At Exeter Leisure we’re very proud to have teamed up with the RD&E to support NHS staff in Exeter with a timetable of free swim, gym and classes. We’ve also been working closely with Sport England to deliver a timetable of free classes to Wonford Sports Centre with our This Girl Can campaign. Aimed at helping women in the local community to build healthy habits, friendships and confidence whilst breaking down barriers to exercise. This initiative is still open to non-members, with classes running until the 19th of December, so if you think that exercise can help you with your stress management you can still head to Wonford to sign up for free classes.


If you feel that you, or someone you know, might need support from TALKWORKS, whether you’re dealing with an overwhelming life event, having sleepless nights or struggling with anxiety from work, you can self-refer to their service on the TALKWORKS website:

NHS Mental Health Support | TALKWORKS (

Please note that TALKWORKS are not able to provide a crisis response service, if you need help urgently you can access emergency mental health support here:

Support in a Crisis | TALKWORKS (


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