By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer
With the holidays approaching fiercely and fast, exercise is literally the last thing most of us are thinking about, let alone making extra time for it. So, instead of focusing on one strength training exercise, I’m going to show you how exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.
Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief — and why exercise should be part of your stress management plan.
Exercise and Stress Relief
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.
• It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
• It’s meditation in motion. After a brisk walk or a vigorous hour of skiing, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.
• It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
A successful exercise program begins with a few simple steps:
• Consult with your doctor. If you haven’t exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
• Walk before you run. Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury.
• Do what you love. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, dancing, jogging, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, skating, weightlifting, gardening and swimming.
• Pencil it in. Although your schedule may necessitate a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next, carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.