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Exercise as Stress Relief

Updated on March 18, 2011

Exercise - brisk, steady and regular - is an antidote to stress. The best exercises are those provided by brisk walking and cycling. Swimming is also a good exercise, provided that people know the conditions of their hearts. Doctors don't like to think about the number of patients they have had over the years who have died because they have dived into ice-cold water. However, if a person's heart is known to be in reasonable order and their blood pressure controlled then swimming is an excellent exercise.

Even so, some caution must be observed. Older people or those with a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or any other condition that might have compromised the coronary circulation are well-advised to climb down slowly into the pool. Everyone knows that when they have a cold shower, there is an involuntary in-drawing of breath. This is because the autonomic nervous system has caused the smooth muscle in the air passages to constrict. At the instigation of cold, the coronary arteries may also behave like the air passages and contract. The result is that, for a moment, the blood supply to the heart muscle may be restricted, or the sudden changes in the heart circulation may cause a fatty plaque within the artery to rupture. In the worst-case scenario, the debris from it may block a narrowed artery and cause a coronary thrombosis.

Some people seek relaxation and relief from the troubles of the day by attending yoga or Pilates classes. Type A personalities, of course, may find all this a bit slow, and it is unlikely that when the yoga session reaches a stage of meditation they will be able to empty their minds enough to be only conscious of the sun or the noises of nature. Even so, yoga can be very useful as a form of stress-relief and control.

In contrast, violent exercise is never recommended. Running marathons or jogging may provide friends and fun, together with some funds for charity, but they are not life-lengthening. Likewise, that veteran rugby for the middle-aged is an entertaining way of ensuring osteo-arthritic joints ten years down the line. Once someone is too d for a competitive team sport, the best sort of rise is to pursue an activity that will provide a social life and regular, steady exercise.


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