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Stressed Out? Get Relief With Exercise

Exercise Helps To Reduce Stress

There is an easy, inexpensive and drug free way to reduce stress, and it can be accomplished with one word. Exercise. Simply put, adding exercise and fitness into your lifestyle reduces stress and creates better health.

I know people have heard many times about the benefits of exercise, especially when used to lower stress. Why then, is stress, disease and fatigue so prevalent in today’s society? The simple answer is, we know what we need to do, but we just aren’t doing it.

Experts agree one best way to manage stress is through exercise.

Exercise has a multitude of benefits including: eases depression, improves blood flow to the brain, burns body fat, increases oxygen to the body, wards off disease, improves the cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, increases endurance, tones muscles, and relaxes the mind and body, to name a few.

When our bodies respond to stress, it causes chemical reactions to occur within our bodies, preparing it for the “fight or flight” response by releasing stress hormones. This process is part of our sympathetic nervous system and when it’s constantly aroused it leads to adrenal burnout. 

In this heightened nervous state of adrenal burnout, the body overproduces adrenaline, Cortisol and other stress hormones. Over time, since the adrenal glands are the first to respond to stress, this causes them to show wear and tear and they become depleted.

In addition, this frequently leads to impairment of the thyroid gland, which can lead to a further decline in energy level and mood. This is one of the reasons why so many women have thyroid glands that aren’t working well. As you can see, continued release of these stress hormones are damaging to our bodies. In fact, ninety percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress related disorders.

In the early days of human civilization, survival was a daily struggle, allowing us the opportunity to disengage our stress through our physical challenges. We were able to run away, or if needed, fight the threat immediately.

In today's society, we do not have to fight off wild animals, or face those physical hardships of early man. Our progression to modern man, has limited the outlets we have to release stress or pent up negative emotions. Therefore, we carry it with us, thus creating emotional and physical problems.

Exercise can provide a helpful outlet for our negative emotions such as worry, irritability, depression, hostility, anger, frustration, and anxiety. These feelings can be eased or eliminated by simply enjoying a round of tennis, going for a walk or run, bike riding, or working out in a gym, etc.

Regular exercise provides the opportunity to manage the “fight or flight response” and helps the body to return to a balanced state more quickly.

When we work our bodies physically, we also enjoy the benefits of endorphins – the feel good hormone. These hormones stimulate physiological changes in the body. Endorphins work to relieve pain and stress by sending off "no pain," signals to the brain. The increased blood flow from exercising releases the endorphins.

In addition, exercise reduces stress levels by enhancing a sense of well being and self confidence, and can improve self-esteem and self worth by improving our physical appearance.

Also, by setting and achieving exercise goals, we build our self-esteem through a feeling of accomplishment. This can lead to the desire to be more social and outgoing, and socializing and being part of a group also helps to ease stress.

Different Types of Exercise

Aerobic Exercise verses Anaerobic

Aerobic exercise is an activity which involves using our major muscle groups. Some examples of aerobic exercise are: walking, running, swimming, and cycling. This type of exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system by increasing your heart and respiratory rate and  bringing more oxygen into the  body.

To reap the full benefits of aerobic exercise, you must workout at an intensity of 60 to 80 percent of your target heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes, three to five times a week.

To calculate your target heart rate use the following formula:
Take 220 - (subtract) your age X (multiply 60%, or 70%, etc. intensity rate.) = target heart rate, then (divide) by six for a ten second pulse count, to get your pulse rate.

So, for a 50 year old person wanting to workout at 80% of their target heart rate, the formula would look like this:

220 – 50 (age) = 170 x 80% (intensity) = 136 (target heart rate) 

Now take the target heart rate of 136 and divide it by 6 to get the pulse rate when counted for 10 seconds.

136 (divided) by 6 = 22.66 (the pulse rate for a 10 second pulse count)

After you begin your aerobic workout take your pulse for ten seconds to see if you are working at the intensity you are trying to achieve. Speed up the pace if you are below 60%.

Anaerobic exercise builds muscle strength and power. Isotonic and Isometrics are two kinds of anaerobic exercises.

Isotonic workouts use an object to contract your muscles against it through movement. Weight lifting or resistance training is an example of isotonic exercise. The benefits of isotonic exercise include: stronger, toned muscles, stronger bones, helps prevent injuries, releases endorphins, has a positive effect on your hormone levels by increasing the fat burning ones and decreasing the catabolic hormone Cortisol, and condenses and shapes muscle for better esthetics.

Isometric exercise is contracting your muscles against resistance without movement. Such as lifting an object like a dumbbell and holding a position. By holding a position in this manner, you are isolating that muscle. Isometrics works the muscles through contraction.

To build healthy, lean, strong muscles and maximize strength, use both types of anaerobic exercises.

The required amount of exercise time required to decrease your stress level is minimal. The key is to select activities you will enjoy and can do for at least 20 minutes, three to five days a week. Incorporating activity into your life does not necessarily mean hitting the gym every day or turning it into a chore. It can simply be a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood or dancing to some tunes.

 Try to think "activity" verses "exercise." Before long, exercise will become habit, part of your weekly routine. You may start to notice how you purposely park a little farther away, do stretches at the computer, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.

Make a commitment to begin being more active and stick to your activities for 21 days. Why 21? Research has showed it takes about 21 days to create a habit. Document how your feel after the 21 days. Your stress levels should be lowered, you should feel more energized, and see some physical changes such as a slimmer physique if you were carrying a few extra pounds.

You may already know the benefits of exercise but are you doing any? Start by making a decision, begin slowly, then gradually work up to longer or more intense workout sessions.

The bottom line is stress results from feeling out of control. You have the ability to reclaim control of your life and to start taking care of yourself. No one else is able to do it for you. Only YOU. Exercise can be the the first step.


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