Exercising to Relax

You overslept, the kids are late for school, and you got caught in the worst morning rush you’ve seen in months. Your blood is boiling and it’s not even 9 a.m. Sound familiar?

Stress is a hard-wired system in our bodies that we once used for survival, but it’s now a daily occurrence in the modern lifestyle. With things like traffic, unsuccessful meetings, and social media triggering our fight-or-flight responses around the clock, our bodies are releasing catabolic hormones that are wreaking havoc on our health.

Thankfully, daily physical activity and exercise produce counter-chemicals that reverse the damage and improve how you feel. Let’s take a look at the benefits of exercise for stress relief, along with ways you can reduce stress in your day-to-day life.

Benefits of Exercise for Stress

Releases Endorphins: Numerous studies have shown that when you exercise, your brain releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins help alleviate stress in three key ways: They promote relaxation, improve mood, and reduce pain. 
Alleviates Physical and Emotional Symptoms: Continuing with the point above, exercise helps to promote a better overall mindset, while reducing physical symptoms from stress such as chest tightness. A commonly cited example of this is called the “runner’s high,” when you feel terrific after completing a long or intense jog.
Decreases Risk of Cardiovascular Issues: Chronic stress increases the likelihood of cardiovascular illnesses such as high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. Countless studies have shown that exercise is one of the best ways to stop the progression of cardiovascular illnesses and reverse the damage.

Feeling Stressed? Do This:

Get Moving: Sure, getting in the gym or a fitness class is always encouraged, but in order to alleviate stress, it’s not a requirement. The idea is to get moving and get away from the source of the stress. For example, you can go for a 15-minute walk, jog, or bike ride around the neighborhood. 
Breathing Exercises: Meditation practices have become commonplace in homes across the country. Studies show that focusing on your breathing for one minute can decrease stress levels and blood pressure. You don’t need candles or incense. Simply sit down away from the source of stress, close your eyes, and focus on taking deep belly breaths for 10 seconds. Once you count to 10, begin again at one. Do this for a few minutes each day.
Take a Class: Again, you want to get out and away from the thing that is stressing you out. Classes are a great way to do this. It could be your favorite fitness class but taking a skill-based class such as painting, or dancing will also work. Do something you enjoy that takes your mind off the problem.
Get into Nature: New studies have shown that reconnecting to nature provides a big payoff in the form of stress relief, pain reduction, and a decrease in inflammation. Walk at your nearby park, try kayaking, or lay on the beach and listen to the waves. Bonus points if you take off your shoes and get your feet in the grass or water! 
Keep Stress in Check with Practice: With our chaotic lifestyles, stress is going to be inevitable, but how you respond to it is up to you. Try incorporating one of the activities from the list above into your daily routine. Do this until it becomes a habit, and then try integrating another activity for successful stress-management.

 

References:
Harber VJ, Sutton JR. Endorphins and exercise. Sports Med. 1984 Mar-Apr;1(2):154-71.
Agarwal SK. Cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Int J Gen Med. 2012; 5:541-5.
Rohisha Tuladhar, Gyanendra Bohara, Paolo Grigolini, Bruce J. West. Meditation-Induced Coherence and Crucial Events. Frontiers in Physiology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00626
Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015; 8:83-96. Published 2015 Mar 24. doi:10.2147/JIR.S69656.
David Sautter


Fitness & Training
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