In this series on how to manage stress during the holidays (or any time of the year) I have touched upon three “must’s”regarding managing stress. You “must” stay hydrated, you “must” eat well, and you “must” not overlook the importance of getting the amount of type of sleep you need. All of these “must’s” are important. Today’s “must” is also important, however.
Our bodies were designed to move. They were built for physical exertion.
Regardless of your age, you need to give your body opportunities to move. Studies show that exercise helps reduce stress.
Depending on your age and physical condition, you may need strenuous exercise to maintain your health, or you may want to opt for less strain but equally healthy moderate exercise. Walking is a great way to exercise that doesn’t put too much extra wear and tear on your knees, for instance, as opposed to running.
The trouble isn’t in knowing that we should exercise. We all know that. The problem lies in our being able to do what we know we should. Let’s face it. We all know that exercise is good for us. Exercise builds muscle, increases lung capacity, improves cardiovascular function, and triggers the release of chemicals that counteract the negatives effects of stress.
With all of that said, when stressed, exercise is often the first thing people forego. They don’t have the energy or the time to go to the gym, and one skipped day turns into a week and then a month.
We kid ourselves into thinking that we can “postpone” exercise until a mythical “later” when we will “feel like it.” News flash. If you are like a lot of us, you won’t ever “feel like it.” Even though I know I benefit from it and can feel the benefits, I have to make myself exercise. I don’t ever wake up in the morning feeling like I can’ wait to get to my exercise routine unless it is that I feel like I just want to get it over with.
The fact of the matter is that we need to make exercise a priority in our lives, but not enough Americans are doing that. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are no more fit today than they were in 1990.
Perhaps even more significantly, it is accepted that lack of exercise, improper diet and smoking are all contributing factors toward both heart disease and cancer.
Moderate exercise engaged in on a regular basis may be the single most effective way to get stress under control as well as to improve your general health and sense of overall well-being. Exercise can go a long way toward releasing the hormones that are produced when you are experiencing a stressful situation at home or work. The exercise need not be strenuous to be beneficial, either. A brisk walk for 30 minutes will accomplish the task.
Other benefits of regular exercise include the following:
● Muscle strength
● Increased flexibility
● Increased heart and lung efficiency
● Decreased risk of developing heart disease
● Decreased risk of developing lung disease
● Improved circulation
● Reduced cholesterol levels
● Strengthened immune system
● Loss of excess body fat
● Decreased risk of diabetes
● Improved quality of sleep
● Increased mental acuity
● Improved self-image
● Decreased effects of stress
● Improved ability to manage stress
Once you have accepted that exercise is important, if you haven’t been exercising regularly, the next step is to find an exercise that will appeal to you and that you will continue to enjoy after the first day or so. Some suggestions for alternatives that you might enjoy include:
● Step Aerobics
● Your choice of team sports (weekend football games, tennis, racquetball, playground basketball games, beach volleyball, etc.)
In addition to getting aerobic exercise on a regular basis, lifting weights is also very beneficial for adults, especially as you age. Weight lifting builds bone mass and can reverse osteoporosis. It increases muscle tone and helps your body to burn more calories because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the aerobic portion of your workout.
I could easily keep rhapsodizing about the benefits of daily exercise, but I think you get the point. Exercise is not only an important stress reducer; it is necessary for long-term health and an increased sense of well-being.