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Exercising Ideas for Stressed People
Physicians have long understood the benefits of exercise for the body. And in recent years, more research has been done on its positive effects on the brain as well. In fact, Jasper Smits, M.D., Co-Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has explored the idea that physical activity can be part of an effective treatment plan for dealing with stress and anxiety.
His findings, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011, are no real surprise.They suggest that people in his study with high activity levels - more regular workouts - dealt with stressful situations better than those without. That has exciting possibilities for all of us in our daily lives!
Why Stress Is A Problem
Our bodies were designed to handle moments of panic and crisis. Our ancestors naturally reacted to threats with what’s called the “fight or flight” response - that rush of energy at a sudden problem arises, or the desire to flee from danger. That built-in response helped early man survive over the centuries.
Today, though, life is very different. Instead of the occasional wild wooly mammoth charge, we have traffic on the freeway and lines at the supermarket. Our world, though full of advances in technology and medicine, has become faster-paced, more pressure-producing.
Stress And The Body
Most of the negative effects of stress are well known. Basically, every system in the body - including digestive, nervous, circulatory and muscular - is worn down by continued exposure to stress and the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Eventually, symptoms will appear, and if left unchecked, they can lead to illness and chronic conditions.
Effects of Stress on Systems of the Body
Can cause a shut-down, inflamation of the gastrointestinal system, an increase in stomach acid, constipation or diarrhea
Can bring an increased heart rate, a release of adrenaline, a constant state of alert, an inability to rest
higher blood pressure, thicker blood, less blood flow to needed areas, a risk of stroke
tension (especially shoulders, neck and back) and a risk for injury, a risk for the heart disease
more sensitive skin with appearance of rashes and blisters, brittle and splitting nails, hair loss
Question For You
How stressful is your life these days?
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Benefits of Exercise
Just take a look at this list to get inspired to make a change!
- Strengthens the body’s systems
- Builds muscle strength
- Builds core strength
- Increases flexibility
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves Balance
- Releases endorphins, the “feel good” neurotransmitters
- Helps focus the mind on the moment
- Blows off steam in a healthy way
- Eases symptoms of depression and anxiety, causes of stress
- Reduces cortisol and adrenaline, both hormones that increase stress
- Builds personal confidence and discipline
What Are Your Obstacles to Exercise
Have you heard yourself say any of these?
"I’m too busy!" Being too busy to take care of yourself is part of the problem! Set an appointment for your routine, just like any other appointment, and honor it.
"I don’t know what exercise to do!" Don’t use a lack of planning as an excuse. There are lots of resources online or one-on-one in person to help you craft a routine that meets your needs. Sometimes the hardest step is the decision to start a new habit, but just do it!
"I don't know what to aim for!" Come up with a specific clear attainable set of goals for yourself, and milestones to reach along the way. Write your list down and refer to that often to stay on track.
"I don’t like exercising alone!" Find a friend or two to share your plans with. Ask them to ask you about your progress. Better yet, invite someone to join you for at least one of your workouts during the week. You’ll inspire each other.
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Tips For Incorporating Exercise Into Your Day
Be smart - check with your doctor first and get the okay before you launch into any new fitness program.
Be realistic - make your goals about what you’ll do each day rather than the final result. Then you’re more likely to appreciate your accomplishments as you go. And don't worry if you have to start small - even getting in 10 minutes of movement a day will make a difference.
Be true to you - if you love swimming, head to the pool. If you like dancing, find a Latin or Swing class. Even if exercise isn’t your favorite thing to do, make it as fun as you can - the time will go faster and you’ll feel more refreshed afterwards.
Be balanced - Include cardio, strength, and flexibility work into your week. Each of them plays an important part in your overall physical (and mental) health.
Be fueling up right - as you increase your activity, your body will need better nutrition, otherwise you'll just end up tired. Do a quick inventory of your food intake, and as you add in daily exercise, add in healthier snacks and meals.
Types of Exercises To Include In Your Plan
Cardio (dance, power walking, running, eliptical machines, etc)
Cardiovascular fitness helps your heart, lungs and organs to consume, transport and use oxygen more effectively. Your heart will pump blood and oxygen more efficiently, and the body will utilize them better. Aim for 40 minutes 2-3 times a week.
Flexibility (yoga, tai chi, stretches)
Fexibility training is an important way for you to protect your body from injury. Doing this kind of activity helps you focus on your movements and how your muscles feel. Deep breathing will bring calm to your body and mind. Add these moves into your routine, especially after you've warmed up and worked out - muscles respond better to stretching then.
Strength (weight lifting, certain yoga poses, resistance band work, etc)
Strength training can mean using dumbbells, weights or even your own body to offer resistance. Doing this kind of exercise will build muscle mass and increase bone density. Studies now have shown extra benefits like arthritis relief and even better blood sugar control. Do a workout 2-3 times a week.