Breaking the stress cycle with exercise

Breaking the stress cycle with exercise

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Life can be stressful. A total of 56 percent of older adults (ages 72-plus), 57 percent of baby boomers, 61 percent of gen-Xers (ages 39-52) and 59 percent of millenials (ages 38-18) are stressed, according to a study last year by the American Psychological Association.

Most of these stressors revolve around money, politics/future of the U.S., work, violence and crime. On top of all these things, it is common for individuals to get wrapped up in their everyday routines and responsibilities and forget about taking care of themselves. This can create more stress as things continue to pile on.

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand — good or bad. When stress is activated, the body releases chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), which tells the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. Cortisol can help control blood-sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation and help with memory formulation. Cortisol becomes a problem when stress is chronic. It can interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight and blood pressure, cholesterol and rates of heart disease.

An individual cannot avoid stress because physiologically the body needs it, just not in excess amounts. Ways to manage stress include: seeing a therapist, exercising, managing your time, prioritizing your to-do list, budgeting and meditation/prayer.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America maintains that exercise and physical activity are the most recommended ways to manage stress. Exercise improves focus and energy levels, and the release of endorphins, which activate a person’s opiate receptors. The receptors act as natural painkillers and make us feel good. Exercise can also improve confidence and self-esteem.

The Association for Applied Sport Psychology recommends a 10-minute walk at low intensity to improve mood and increase energy. This can be a walk around the neighborhood by yourself, with your dog or a friend or even a walk to the grocery story. Endurance activities such as running, swimming and hiking as well as resistance/cross-training exercises such as lifting weights and rock climbing, are also effective to begin an exercise regimen. If someone is already working out but also finds that stressful, it is best to switch up the regimen. Try lifting two-three times a week and either go rock climbing, boxing or swimming one-two times per week. Another suggestion is to change the location; maybe try working out outside, at the beach or a different type of gym environment. Switching a routine or location can do wonders and will add excitement. This type of situation may result in learning a new skill or buying new gear.

Be proactive in managing stressors by implementing some physical activity or exercise in your life. 

 

Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer through her business, Vigor Vida Fitness & Wellness. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness. She trains her clients out of Optimal Sports Club and offers in-home training in Philadelphia and on the Main Line.


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