Are you plagued by anxiety, stress or even depression? Your sedentary lifestyle might be the problem. When stressed, the nervous system gears up the body for the flight or fight response. To save you from the ‘lions’, your body dumps a bunch of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your system. But most of the stress today doesn’t require a quick departure or vicious fight…No ‘lions’, just stuff like congested traffic or nasty bosses. So how do you clear your system of these stress chemicals? Exercise!
4 Ways Exercise Reduces Stress:
- When you get some exercise, this gives your body’s systems a chance to interact, a simulation of fight or flight. This moves those stress chemicals out of your system.
- Exercise produces those ‘feel good’ chemicals, endorphins. It is the body’s natural pain killers. Have you ever heard of a runners’ high…better yet, have you felt it?! It is instant relief for anxiety.
- Some exercises have a rhythm to them. Aerobic exercises like running, cycling, rowing, and swimming fall into this category. While you do them, they have a meditative effect that calms the mind. Focusing on nothing and everything, you get into a flow, and you end up feeling very peaceful.
- Sports are a great way to get rid of stress. Not only do they simulate fights and flights, but there is the social aspect. If it is just a light hearted game and not taken too seriously, all the better. This makes playing sports a lot of fun. Also having a group of friends, a community to interact with, is great for your health.
So the next time you are stressed run in place or go for a jog. Do some jumping jacks, berpees, or bounce on a mini trampoline. Find a dance class or a volleyball game. Just get out there and remember anything that increases the heart rate and gets the blood flowing is a great way to to rid your body and mind of stress.
Are You An Extreme Athlete Or Just Exercise A Ton?
In the fitness world, everyone is always taking about more is not better and that overtraining leads to decline. But experts say overtraining is a myth. Other than competitive athletes, 99.5% of the rest of us will never experience overtraining. So what was going on with my clients that exercise a lot, eat properly, but started getting the dreaded muffin top?
In an effort to help my clients, I started investigating and found some fascinating information. If you are the kind of person that is always pushing yourself to the limit, engaging in really competitive sports, or doing a ton of training, like a triathlete, you could actually be raising your cortisol. When there are high levels of cortisol in the blood stream, your body releases glucose so you have energy to get away from that mythical ‘lion’. If you’re already stressed out from your lifestyle and you add the extreme exercise, that is a recipe for muffin top!
4 Steps To Balancing Your Cortisol:
- Add a mindfulness practice like yoga, meditation, or tai chi, to your routine.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Cut out the junk food and sugar.
- Make sure you eat nutrient-dense foods.
If you’re curious and want more information about how hormones affect your health, check out Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book, The Hormone Cure.
To sum things up, one of the best ways to get exercise to work for you in reducing stress and anxiety is to choose the middle way, to mix it up, or to balance exercise with other healthy habits.
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