I'm a guy in my mid-thirties and I want to know how often and for how long I should run to reduce stress. I put the most stock in research studies.

EDIT: I'm in good shape and I've been running since I was 5 or so. I'd like to get a lot of stress reduction while minimizing time spent running. The ideal answer would probably quote a study which says something like, "Several studies have shown that running at a moderate pace for X minutes per day Y times per week is sufficient to reduce stress. Cortisol, blood pressure, blah blah blah, were measured ...". I've web searched and come up short


To reduce stress, I would recommend slow and steady running.

Certain forms of exercise (jogging, cross country skiing, swimming, hiking, bicycling) require a fairly consistent repetitive motion that can alter one's state of consciousness. Described by some as moving meditation, the physiological effects of regular participation in these activities is very similar to what happens when one practices meditation. Breathing and movement, act as a mantra and may in part be responsible for the feelings of calmness and tranquility claimed by some in response to exercise.

Taken from Exercise as a Stress Management Modality

You may also try to apply some of the recommendations from Runner's World where they summarize a list of stress symptoms and propose solutions to each.


THE SOLUTION Run on a flat, well-lit surface, and try to pick a scenic route you find calming.

Stress Symptom: YOU'RE FIRED UP

THE SOLUTION "Take it down a notch and keep the pace comfortable,"

Stress Symptom: YOU'RE TOO TENSE

THE SOLUTION Improve your flexibility and strength—especially in those weak, injury-susceptible spots.


THE SOLUTION Eating small, frequent mini-meals that include a lean protein, complex carbohydrate, and monounsaturated fat helps stabilize your blood sugar.

Note: Because you phrased your question as "how often and for how long I should run", this leaves out A LOT of other stress reducing activities, like yoga :)

  • Thanks, Tony. I'm a runner, so I asked about running. These are nice, but, for the most part, don't answer my question.
    – Brian
    Jun 7 '11 at 1:16

The Anxiety Centre is the best web site I know to learn all there is to know about stress and anxiety, and more. They specifically suggest you do no more than light to moderate exercise (such as a medium paced walk for 30-40 minutes). Any more than this will stress the body and make your stress condition even worse.

  • Thanks, Randy. This answer comes closest to answering my question of the three given so far. I'll hold out to see if an answer surfaces that says that running is okay.
    – Brian
    Jun 7 '11 at 1:19

From Tai Chi studies, I’ve learned that in the West we spend a lot of time in our heads, thinking in our overstimulated world and are less in touch with our bodies and its sensations. We can reduce our stress by draining our attention out of our heads and becoming more mindful of our bodies. That is why many stress reduction techniques focus on the breath.

Your question is asking for an academic answer to solve your “feeling” of stress. By searching for studies to tell you how long and how often to run to reduce your physiologic markers of stress, you are overlooking the most direct answer, “to run until you feel your stress release.” While I know that this is not the answer that you are looking for, it may be the most direct way for you to reduce your stress and achieve your goal.

ChiRunning’s article, Stress Reduction Made Easy, describes their “fun run” as a way of running to reduce stress. It suggests to run without a plan, without speed, and without time limit “until you sense the need in your body to head back.” How long? “It doesn't matter as long as you're enjoying being in your body and not in your head.”


Glad to hear you are looking to exercise as a way of reducing stress! While running is an excellent way to do that, your posts actually raises a couple of other questions that need to be addressed prior to jumping into any type of exercise regiment.

1) Are you overweight? 2) Do have you have any experience as a runner? If so how long ago and what type? 3) As Tony R asked why not Yoga? 4) How much time are you willing to dedicate? 5) Are there other benefits that you would like to derive from said activity?

The bottom line is to jump into a regiment that results in an injury will only ADD stress!

My experience is stress relief can be obtained in various forms of activity from surfing to hiking to biking...I am not a natural runner and the beating my body endures while running only yields more stress! Having said that, I know that if I were interested in pursuing running as a regular activity I could slowly adapt my body, but at my age....I think you get the point!

Peace & best, g

  • Thanks for the warnings. I should've provided background. I've been running since I was 5 or so and I'm pretty fit.
    – Brian
    Jun 7 '11 at 1:17

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