Exercise Can Help Control Stress
People who exercise regularly will tell
you they feel better. Some will say it's because chemicals called
neurotransmitters, produced in the brain, are stimulated during exercise. Since
it's believed that neurotransmitters mediate our moods and emotions, they can
make us feel better and less stressed.
While there's no scientific evidence to
conclusively support the neurotransmitter theory, there is plenty to show that
exercise provides stress-relieving benefits.
Four ways exercise controls stress
- Exercise can help you feel less
anxious. Exercise is being prescribed in clinical settings to help treat
nervous tension. Following a session of exercise, clinicians have measured a
decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles. People have been less
jittery and hyperactive after an exercise session.
- Exercise can relax you. One
exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Some
people call this post-exercise euphoria or endorphin response. We now know
that many neurotransmitters, not just endorphins, are involved. The important
thing though is not what they're called, but what they do: They improve your
mood and leave you relaxed.
- Exercise can make you feel better
about yourself. Think about those times when you've been physically
active. Haven't you felt better about yourself? That feeling of self-worth
contributes to stress relief.
- Exercise can make you eat better.
People who exercise regularly tend to eat more nutritious food. And it's no
secret that good nutrition helps your body manage stress better.
It's time to get started
Now that you know exercise can make a
big difference in controlling stress, make some time for regular physical
activity. We'll help you get started by listing three activities you can choose
- Aerobic activity All it takes
is 20 minutes' worth, six to seven days a week. Twenty minutes won't carve a
big chunk out of your day, but it will improve your ability to control stress
- Yoga In yoga or yoga-type
activities, your mind relaxes progressively as your body increases its amount
of muscular work. Recent studies have shown that when large muscle groups
repeatedly contract and relax, the brain receives a signal to release specific
neurotransmitters, which in turn make you feel relaxed and more alert.
- Recreational sports Play
tennis, racquetball, volleyball or squash. These games require the kind of
vigorous activity that rids your body of stress-causing adrenaline and other
Not just any exercise will do
Don't try exercising in your office.
Outdoors or away from the office is the best place to find a stress-free
environment. Even a corporate fitness center can have too many work-related
thoughts for some people.
Stay away from overcrowded classes. If
you work surrounded by people, a big exercise class may be counterproductive.
Solo exercise may be more relaxing for you. If, however, you work alone, you may
enjoy the social benefit of exercising in a group. A lot depends on your
personality and what causes stress for you.
Don't skip a chance to exercise. Take a
break every 90 minutes and you'll be doing yourself a favor. Ninety-minute
intervals are a natural work-break period. And four 10-minute exercise breaks at
this time will burn about as many calories as a solid 40-minute session.
Work-break exercises can be as simple as walking or climbing stairs, stretching
or doing calisthenics.
Controlling stress comes down to making
the time to exercise. You're worth it!