Stress and You: Exercising Your Way to a Healthy Mind by: Erica Gilbert

"Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live." - Jim Rohn

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your level of stress? Now let me ask you this: How many days a week do you exercise? Do you exercise at all? If you even answered "1" for your stress level, incorporating just 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine could significantly help you manage stress. Many people see exercise as a way to keep their bodies in shape, which is true, but exercise has the ability to provide an overall healthy lifestyle; mind and body!

For those who exercise regularly, there is an association of emotional well-being and physical activity. In fact, several studies have shown a decrease in depression with an increase in physical activity in addition to more than a hundred clinical studies have concluding that exercise boosts mood and mental function. Scientifically speaking, stress reduction and stimulation of mood-modulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are the reason behind this (Olpin, 15). Part of the long-term relief is due to the unique way exercise helps build up a resistance to stress. "Through regular cardio, you actually change your brain, so it takes more and more stress to trigger the fight-or-flight response," says John Ratey, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Fitness Magazine, 1). Watch the video below for information on how exercise rewires our brain and reduces stress and anxiety.

For those who exercise regularly, there is an association of emotional well-being and physical activity. In fact, several studies have shown a decrease in depression with an increase in physical activity in addition to more than a hundred clinical studies have concluding that exercise boosts mood and mental function. Scientifically speaking, stress reduction and stimulation of mood-modulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are the reason behind this (Olpin, 15). Part of the long-term relief is due to the unique way exercise helps build up a resistance to stress. "Through regular cardio, you actually change your brain, so it takes more and more stress to trigger the fight-or-flight response," says John Ratey, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Fitness Magazine, 1). Watch the video below for information on how exercise rewires our brain and reduces stress and anxiety.

What type of exercise is best in helping reduce stress and anxiety? Any exercise that you enjoy, that is healthy, and that you will commit to. To see the benefits of exercise as a stress management tool, you have to stick with it. Remember: you get out of it exactly what put into it. Here are a few components of physical fitness put together by the authors of Stress Management for Life Margie Hesson and Michael Olpin:

  1. Cardiorespiratory fitness: such as jogging, cycling, and swimming. This is the ability of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels to process and transport oxygen.
  2. Muscle fitness: The ability of the skeletal muscle to engage in work. An example of muscle fitness would be weight-lifting.
  3. Flexibility: Yoga is a great example of a flexibility concentrated exercise and is known for its ability to relieve stress. This is our joint's ability to move freely through a free range of motion.
  4. Body Composition: This is the makeup of our bodies when speaking about fat tissue in relation to lean body tissue. Something you may want to find out is your body fat percentage.
Look good, feel good! It's no secret that the way we look weighs heavily on how we feel. On top of all of the many physiological benefits of exercise as a stress reducer, it feels good to be in shape! Watching your body transform as a result of the hard work and effort you put in, is a great feeling.

For more information on how to manage stress and anxiety through exercise, please visit the following sites:

Works Cited

Goad, Kimberly. "Stop Stress for Good: Exercise to Fight Stress." Fitness Magazine. Fitness Magazine, 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.

Kettunen, O., Vuorimaa, T., & Vasankari, T. (2015). A 12-month exercise intervention decreased stress symptoms and increased mental resources among working adults – Results perceived after a 12-month follow-up. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health,28(1), 157-168. doi:10.13075/ijomeh.1896.00263

Olpin, M., & Hesson, M. (2015). Stress Management For Life. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

"The body achieves what the mind believes" -Napoleon Hill

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Created with images by egorshitikov - "yoga pacific healthy" • garryknight - "Gentle Exercise" • MabelAmber - "cyclist cycle racer cycle racing" • AlexVan - "crossfit sports fitness" • tacofleur - "plank exercise female" • rob9040 - "home fitness equipment blue fitness equipment portable" • greekfood-tamystika - "yoga stand in hands silhouette sunset beach"

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