Exercise Can Help Control Stress
People who exercise regularly will tell you they feel better. Some will say it’s because chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are produced in the brain, are stimulated during exercise. Since it’s believed that neurotransmitters mediate people’s moods and emotions, they can make you feel better and less stressed.
While there’s no scientific evidence to con- clusively support the neurotransmitter theory, there is plenty to show that exercise provides stress-relieving benefits.
There are four ways in which exercise con- trols 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 are often less jittery and hyperactive after an exercise session.
• Exercise can relax you—One exercise ses- sion generates 90 to 120 minutes of relax- ation response. Some people call this post- exercise euphoria or endorphin response. Many neurotransmitters, not just endor- phins, 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.
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 from:
• Aerobic activity—All it takes is 20 minutes, six to seven days a week. Twenty minutes won’t carve a big chunk out of your day, but it will significantly 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. Studies have shown that when large mus- cle groups repeatedly contract and relax, the brain receives a signal to release spe- cific neurotransmitters, which in turn make you feel relaxed and more alert.
• Recreational sports—Play tennis, racquet- ball, volleyball or squash. These games require the kind of vigorous activity that rids your body of stress-causing adrenaline and other hormones.
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