Many people think of the holidays as the most stressful time of the year, but that stress doesn’t always dissipate when the time comes to change the calendar. The New Year, what with resolutions to keep and presents to return, carries its own set of stressors. But a new study confirms what many already know: One of the best ways to combat daily stress is with regular exercise.

Researchers at the University of Texas, Houston, asked 135 college students to fill out questionnaires to assess their daily stress loads as well as their moods, physical activity patterns and overall health. Those who reported exercising less often experienced 37 percent more physical symptoms and 21 percent more anxiety during periods of high stress than those who exercised more frequently.

Exercise, it seems, offered students a temporary respite from their problems, a period of rejuvenation before returning to the pressure of daily stress. According to lead researcher Dr. Cindy L. Carmack, “Minor, everyday stress contributes to the development and exacerbation of physical and mental health problems. However, people experiencing minor stress develop different degrees of symptoms, depending on their level of physical activity.”
(Source: Annals of Behavioral Medicine, November 1999)