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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.


13 Responses to " Stressed Out? Get Relief With Exercise "
  1. Meghann said...

    Very in depth! I am in total agreement - the best way to improve my mood when I feel down is to have a good work out - whether in a gym setting, or a good brisk walk with my dog. After that, I feel great!

  2. HypnotizeMe said...

    I heard it took 28 days to change a habit but I guess that's neither here or there. The important thing is to get up and get active.

    If you lack the motivation to exercise alone get a dog. When they look up at you with their big eyes you just have to take them outside. You don't need to jog even, a brisk walk everyday is enough.

  3. Garnet Lese said...

    I have fibro. When I exercise I feel worse. I know that's temporary, but how temporary? How do you know if the pain and increased fatigue after relatively gentle exercise (I use Wii Fit) is something that will pass if you persevere, or a danger sign?

    I really want to get serious about exercise, but when I try everything seems to get worse.

  4. Jewelled Trellis said...

    Teresa I have Fibro too. The pain and fatigue that come after excercise doesn't go away. It is a sign that you have done too much. Start slower with your exercise. I would try Tai Chi or yoga for the elderly ( yes I know you are still young) but that is what I have been doing and I can feel okay after exercising not sore and tired. I really like the Tai Chi. It is soothing and helps with stress.
    I hope that helps you.
    Gentle hugs (because we both know hugs hurt)

  5. Garnet Lese said...

    I do very gentle Yoga and a few strength exercises. I feel like I'm really starting slow and low. I need to get a Tai Chi DVD. I wonder if they have Tai Chi for the Wii?? :-) Thanks, Robyn.

  6. Andi Stern said...

    I found it was easier to get into a routine when I had a buddy to work out with. We enjoyed spending some time in each other's company and got in better shape as well. I know my blood pressure definitely benefits from regular exercise as well.

  7. AMK said...

    Sports nutrition is important for athletes in order to achieve top performance. Such as taking health supplements in building muscles and to establish a better stamina. Along with proper diet and exercise, one can get in shape.

  8. Shane Shirley said...

    I have been off of the owrkout wagon for too long this time. It is a true way to live soooo much better.

  9. Andrea Jackson said...

    Spot on - especially the last bit about stress relating to being out of control. When I had a very hard few years, eventually I made the move to daily exercise, a very lean diet and giving up alcohol (instant relaxant, but reality avoidance) and 3 years later the things that caused me stress are still there, but I am in control and not reactive, but strong and positive through exercise and diet. It is worth the (considerable) effort.

  10. Liz Amason said...

    21 days - Starting at 5am tomorrow, will keep you posted & thanks!

  11. Huzaifa said...

    yES you are very right, exercise is necessary for a health life. your tips for exercise are also good. .tk care.

  12. MRochell said...

    Although I don't have fibromyalgia, I too find I can get easily injured when doing almost any kind of exercise. For example, yoga which I absolutely love, now gives me a back spasm, even when I go very slowly. Working out on most weight machines causes my joints to swell, even if I start slow. Walking on a treadmill even for two minutes causes my knees to inflame. One bright spot is that I've been able to use Gyrotonics, which uses a lot of circular movements. They also have a workout machine called the Gyrotonics trasnformer and so far I haven't been injured and I can do either a gentle or an aerobic workout without too many problems.

  13. RoseBelle said...

    My manager has hyperactive thyroid and she was prescribed this huge pill to take which makes her hair fall out. Her job is very stressful. She books in more than 10 hours of work everyday which obviously took a toll on her health. You provided some really interesting and helpful tips. I'm slowly learning yoga and meditation which not as easy as everyone makes it sound.

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