Exercise Benefits Series 1 Stress

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Exercise Benefits Series 1 Stress

NCG:Coaching & Therapies
Published by Laurence in Exercise · 30 November 2019
It is well known that exercise can improve your physical health, trim your body, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. Any or all of these benefits are offered as the reasons most people give for starting to exercise, but it is rarely what motivates most people to stay active.

It has been found that those who exercise regularly tend to do so because of a great sense of well-being felt from doing so. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. On top of this, it can also be powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

According to Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A, "regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better."

Over a series of blogs, I will talk about how exercise can help with stress, depression, anxiety, ADHD and other types of trauma, as wells as how to overcome difficulties (self imposed or genuine) in finding time and motivation to exercise, but I will start with 'stress'.

Exercise and stress
There are noticeable symptoms felt within yourself when you are under stress, specifically including tension in the muscles in your face, neck, and shoulders, which often leaves you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches.
You can even feel a tightness in your chest, often creating increased stress and anxiety from worrying, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomach ache, diarrhea, or frequently needing to 'wee'. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that with some of these, especially chest tightness, you should seek medical advice not just about the likely cause, but also for advice on the type of exercise it is best to undertake.

As mentioned with chest tightness, the worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Many studies have proven exercising is an effective way to break this cycle.

As well as releasing 'pleasure' chemicals called 'endorphins' in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.

Assuming you have the all clear to exercise, if you have existing medical conditions, there are a whole range of options available to you and I to access these benefits.

For many, simply walking for 30 minutes a day provides a huge improvement in your health and well-being, whereas for others who like more energetic activities, a great low-impact (meaning less joint stress) exercise is a form of cardio performed on small personal trampolines, called 'Bounce'. One local to me in the St John's Wood/Maida Vale/Queen's Park area has people of all ages, shapes, sizes, cultures and sexes, having great fun whilst exercising and feeling great for doing so.

As an ex-competitive bodybuilder, long term martial artist and having previously provided personal training for a number of clients, I personally prefer strength and hypertrophic (muscle building) exercise, which have benefits in bone strength, thickness and structure especially for older trainers, so have personally developed workouts capable of being done at home or at a gym, that I use myself every week, but if there is one key element of the type of exercise you choose which will make it a regular part of your life it is that is needs to be fun for you!

Whilst you think this over, or better still just go and try something that sounds fun, here are a few additional mental and emotional plus's to exercising:

  • Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
  • Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
  • Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.
  • More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.
  • Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

Take a look in your area for the different types of exercise available, not all of which are in intimidating environments, or even look into engaging a personal trainer to help you (I will talk about what to look for in choosing a good one, in another post soon). You will not regret adding exercise to your life!

Stay safe, healthy and relaxed!


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