Exercise away your troubles and manage stress with movement

manage stress with movement

Lots of people do exercise for the physical benefits they get from it without really thinking about the mental benefits they’re also reaping.  Exercise is excellent for your mental well-being and for managing stress which is the cause of a number of health conditions and contributes to weight gain.

Stress affects the body in a number of ways. It causes the muscular system to tighten up, which is a defense mechanism to avoid injury or pain. This muscle tightening over long periods of time can cause stress headaches that are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head. It also affects the respiratory system, causing you to breathe harder. This can lead to  panic attacks or even trigger asthma attacks.

When the body is stressed it produces epinephrine and cortisol, sometimes called the “stress hormones.” Exercise teaches these various systems (cardiovascular, muscular, nervous, etc.) to communicate more effectively. In other words, think of exercise as a practice run for handling stress. The physical stress that you put your body through during exercise trains these systems to work more efficiently together. So when you start dealing with stress these systems are already better prepared to respond.

The American Psychological Association reported:

[Exercise] forces the body's physiological systems -- all of which are involved in the stress response -- to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body's communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.

Studies show that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness, increasing concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function. Perhaps one of the most well-known facts about exercise is that it increases your brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins (as you may know) are the bodies “natural painkillers.” They are neurotransmitters that reduce the feeling of pain and fatigue, allowing you to continue the physical activity. These endorphins are the reason that people feel so good after a workout.

So how can you put exercise and stress relief to work for you

Here’s a few simple tips on how to manage stress with movement:

Consult with your doctor. If you haven't exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.  It might also be a good idea so start a programme where there are qualified coaches to help get started and progress safely.

Walk before you run.
Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can   lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury.  For most healthy adults, the World Health Organisation recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running). You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

Also, incorporate strength training exercises at least twice a week. Resistance exercise using weight puts a heavy strain on the muscles, and can produce more endorphins in a faster period of time than cardio exercise. Certain strength-training exercises produce more endorphins than others, according to Luis M. Alvidrez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico. Multi-joint exercises that put stress on more than one joint and large amounts of muscle have been shown to produce the most endorphins during and after the workout.  Again, begin with the help of a qualified coach.

Do what you love. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Trying to force yourself to do something you don’t like is only going to add to your stress levels.

Pencil it in. Although your schedule may necessitate a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next, carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.

Find a friend. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Working out with a friend, co-worker or family member often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts and keep you going long after you might have otherwise stopped.

Change up your routine. If you've always been a competitive runner, take a look at other less competitive options that may help with stress reduction, such as Pilates or yoga classes. As an added bonus, these kinder, gentler workouts may enhance your running while also decreasing your stress.

Exercise in increments. Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can't fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. Interval training, which entails brief (60 to 90 seconds) bursts of intense activity at almost full effort, is being shown to be a safe, effective and efficient way of gaining many of the benefits of longer duration exercise. What's most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

Whatever you do, don't think of exercise as just one more thing on your to-do list. Find an activity you enjoy — whether it's a Zumba class or a meditative meander along the riverbank — and make it part of your regular routine. Any form of physical activity can help you unwind and deal with the stresses of life.

Inspire Fitness in Chippenham know how to manage stress with movement.  Look at the range of exercise classes we offer.