Exercise and Stress

It is no secret that people who exercise regularly feel better, more energetic, and less stressed. . There is plenty of evidence to show that exercise provides stress-relieving benefits. Essentially, there are four ways exercise controls stress.

Exercise can help you relax. Although the actual exercise bout might be strenuous and difficult to execute, actual benefits such as stress reduction, body toning etc. actually occur after the session is over. The immediate post-exercise period helps flush out carbon dioxide and waste products from the various systems. Following a session of exercise, clinicians have measured a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles. People feel less jittery and hyperactive after an exercise session.

Exercise can help raise your mood. A good and well-supervised exercise session helps you relax for the next 90 to 120 minutes. This is called post-exercise euphoria or endorphin response, and these ‘feel good’ chemicals improve your mood and leave you relaxed.

Exercise can make you feel better about yourself. Think about those times when you were physically active. Did you not better about yourself? That feeling of self-worth contributes to stress relief. Physical fitness is a buffer against stress and fit subjects experience less stress than unfit subjects.

Exercise can make you eat better. People who exercise regularly tend to eat more nutritious food and stick to healthy eating habits; this helps your body manage stress better.

To help you get started, here are three types of activities you can choose from. A combination of all 3 is ideal for best results.

1. Aerobic activity. All it takes is 20 minutes’ worth, six to seven days a week. Twenty minutes won’t carve a big chunk out of your day, but it will improve your ability to control stress significantly. These are good aerobic studios in almost every town. Look for information in local newspapers for spring specials and other discounts.

2. Yoga. In yoga or yoga-type activities, your mind relaxes progressively as your body increases its amount of muscular work. Recent studies have shown that when large muscle groups repeatedly contract and relax, the brain receives a signal to release specific neurotransmitters, which in turn make you feel relaxed and more alert.

3. Recreational sports. Play cricket, football tennis, or badminton on weekends. Cycling and swimming also work well. These games require the kind of vigorous activity that rids your body of stress-causing adrenaline and other hormones.

In addition to the above ‘long term solutions’, you can also try several techniques to ‘calm down’ when you feel overly stressed. The following ‘short cut stress busters’ should be very helpful.

If you are sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time, stand up from the desk and stretch your arms and legs at regular intervals. Shut your eyes and take 20 slow deep breaths.

Listen to soothing music.

Squeeze and release a towel or a rubber ball a few times.

Visualize yourself petting your children, sitting by the balcony watching the sunset, spending the weekend relaxing with family, walking on grass etc