Survival Kit for Stress Tool #5

Exercise: Shaping Up to Keep Stress Down

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley

Exercise is, without doubt, one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and its effects on the body. The mental and physical benefits of exercise can’t be obtained any other way. Unfortunately, it is not the case as singer Cher wistfully said, “Fitness - if it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body.”

Why does exercise – defined as any activity that involves moving the muscles, bending joints and moving the bones in a repetitive manner – keep stress away? You see, when you are under stress at work, your muscles contract in a milder form of fight-or-flight response. Your muscles can stay tense for hours, often without you even realizing it.

If you don’t do anything about it, this will eventually cause body aches, pains, spasms and even injuries. Over a long period of time, it can become chronic.

Exercise helps your body get rid of the stress hormones released in response to stressors experienced throughout the day. Exercise gets your muscles back into the normal state, strengthens and tones them and helps you respond better to latter stressors.

The mental benefits of exercise are just as important; after exercise you will feel peaceful and relaxed, and generally, good about yourself. Many people have found they are able to solve problems better after a bout of exercise. It also aids in sleeping, so if you are unable to sleep due to stress, this is a good solution.

Exercise also increases the production of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the brain that send signals to the nervous system to help in killing pain, to fight disease, reduce our appetite and give us a sense of euphoria.

Set a goal to make time to exercise for at least 30 minutes three or four times a week and make it a long-term commitment. It doesn’t need to be one 30-minute block; you can do two 15-minute or three 10-minute blocks. Choose an activity or exercise that you enjoy, so you won’t feel it’s a chore. Also don’t go for spurts of intense activity, especially if you are normally quite sedentary. We don’t want any “weekend warriors” collapsing from over-exertion!

Look out for Tool #7 in the next segment of Health Coach International’s Survival Kit for Stress.

To read more on other benefits of exercise, click here.

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