AUBURN, Alabama—In today’s fast-paced society, stress is a common factor in a person’s daily life. Whether triggered internally or externally, stress can mentally and physically affect our bodies. Most people struggle finding ways to reduce stress in their lives. The simplest answer is exercise.
Benefits of Exercise
“Exercise increases endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain which increases a person’s overall mood while decreasing their stress,” said Donna Shanklin, a regional Alabama Extension agent in human nutrition, diet and health. Stress is a response that urges the body into fight or flight mode, which causes a higher release of stress hormones.
Some other benefits of exercise include:
- Lowers blood glucose
- Reduces body fat
- Increases metabolism
- Strengthens bones
- Lowers blood pressure
Shanklin said research from the International Journal of Health and Science states, “It is believed that exercise habits protect against harmful effects of negative stress on our physical and mental health. Preliminary evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.”
Exercise is a Lifestyle
“Exercising needs to be a daily habit to increase its effect on stress reduction. Simple exercises incorporated into our daily routines can build a positive foundation of physical fitness. Once the foundation is built, stress will be a manageable reaction,” Shanklin said.
Adding exercise to your everyday commute is another great way to exercise during the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a far away spot to add steps to your daily walk and if you can, bike to work or school. If an individual does not have an hour to set aside for exercising each day, the easiest way to exercise is to incorporate simple movement into your day.
“There are also aerobic and strength exercises. A combination of both is good. Walking is also an excellent activity that most people can do. Walking and mindfulness exercises have been found to have a positive outcome on stress levels,” Shanklin said.
Moving to Relieve Stress
Exercise is a simple and easy way to reduce stress, but other factors can increase its relief benefits. Proper nutritional habits and coping skills, when paired with exercise, can counteract stressful situations.
“Stressed people often turn to comfort foods, which are often energy dense, high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. People need to focus on increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables with exercise to start managing stress. When a person is eating healthier, their body works more efficiently. The dietary antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables may also improve cognitive function,” Shanklin said.
Stress reduction through exercise is simple and easy. Exercise is a lifestyle change that will have a long-term, positive impact on your physical and spiritual well-being. Endorphins increase one’s positive outlook, and a happy mind is a happy body.
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Body image by Belushi/Shutterstock.com