Exercise and Stress
Let’s talk about a subject many people find painful. Yes. We’re going to talk about exercise.
While many people love it, quite a few of us don’t. Some of us who think we don’t get any exercise actually do!
But one fact that I’ll be emphasizing today is this: even small amounts of exercise can have positive effects toward relieving the physical and mental discomfort of stress.
Exercise is indeed a proven stress reducer, and with stress reduced, anxiety decreases.
How does this “exercise reduces stress” idea work?
A few different things happen when we exercise that help us out on the stress-fighting front.
For one, when you’re exercising, whether a moderate walk on a treadmill, a set of bicep curls, or a vigorous swim, you’ve turned your mind away from the source of your anxiety.
You’re focused on something other than your problem—even if you don’t know what the problem is, as is so often the case with generalized anxiety.
Exercise takes place in the mind/brain/body interface, just like worry, stress and anxiety do. When you’re actively devoted some of your mental energy and physical energy to exercise, your brain is going to orient itself toward that current activity—exercise—and less brain power will be available for stress.
Exercise displaces anxiety.
Exercise also has a direct effect on your body, immediately. Don’t worry about losing 20 pounds in a month!
You’re getting a great benefit from a 15 minute walk, for example. The activation of the muscles in your legs, arms and back prompt increased blood flow, increased oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange, and deeper, more regular breathing.
All of this stimulates the body into an wonderland of beneficial outcomes. Stress hormones such as cortisol and histamine are suppressed. Your immune system is therefore boosted, and small amounts of adrenaline help sharpen your thinking.
For the mild aches of low to moderate impact exercise, the brain releases its own feel-good chemicals, the endorphins, but while they don’t remain in the body for very long, the positive results of exercise do.
Think about it: for a while, perhaps a brief while, you’ve stopped being anxious. You’ve taken back your time and life from anxiety.
Plus, the benefits of exercise continue after you’ve stopped for that session. Try adding exercise into your weekly routine, but start out very small.
Don’t make some unreasonable schedule, fail to meet it, and then stress! By all means, start out by exercising one day a week. Fifteen to thirty minutes, once a week.
Now, while many exercise gurus might laugh at my little goal, I’m trying to say this: we’re building exercise into our life-routine. If you’re exercise-phobic, or if you have health issues that limit the amount of physical exercise you can do, start very small!