Work Out Your Stress
Stress is part of life. Caregiving, work and family demands, illness and financial pressures all can cause stress. So can special occasions like birthdays and holidays with their many demands and expectations.
If you don’t control stress it can lead to health problems. Stress can disrupt not only your concentration but also your sleeping and eating habits. It could weaken your ability to fight illness. And it could lead to depression.
What you should know
You’ve probably tried different ways to reduce stress in your life, like taking a vacation or meditating. But have you tried regular exercise? Physical activity is one of the best stress busters around. A brisk walk, game of tennis, or fitness class helps you let off steam and distracts you from your source of stress. It also relaxes and re-energizes your body. Physical activity can also boost your immune system to help fight off illnesses like colds that stress can cause.
There are other benefits to making exercise the center of your stress-blasting program, too. People who are regularly physically active tend to eat better. A healthy diet also helps your body manage stress better. And it contributes to better overall health. So you’re a winner all around! Besides fighting stress, physical activity also will:
- keep your bones strong
- build muscle
- help you lose weight and keep it off
- help you feel better about yourself
So what kind of physical activity works best for beating stress? That depends on you - the type of person you are, what you enjoy doing best and what triggers your stress. The important thing is to get moving! Aim for at least 30 minutes a day for five or more days a week. Doing something you enjoy is the best way to get and stay motivated. Here are some suggestions:
- Go solo
If you work closely with people all day, a crowded exercise class after work might only add to your stress. A walk, a jog, or a home exercise video might be the thing for you.
- Let loose
Try a boxing or kickboxing class if laying into a punching bag helps you release built-up tension.
- Buddy up
An exercise buddy could provide the “oomph” you need on days you don’t feel like working out. If you work alone, a class at a health club or recreation center could relieve stress caused by isolation.
- Compete if you can
For some people, nothing works better than an intense game of tennis or racquetball to get rid of pent-up stress hormones. But steer clear of these activities if competition causes more stress than it releases.
- Double up on benefits
Some forms of exercise have built-in relaxation techniques. For instance, yoga combines deep breathing, stretching and meditation. Some martial arts classes and programs focus on meditation and positive thinking to strengthen both mind and body.
- Set realistic goals
While reasonable amounts of physical activity can reduce stress, overdoing it can make it worse. Be realistic about your fitness goals. Trying to do too much could be mentally and physically stressful.
Fitting it all in
If the thought of trying to squeeze one more thing into your overcrowded life is enough to make you break a sweat, relax. With some planning and rearranging, you can build more activity into your routine. Try:
- Getting your physical activity in small spurts. For each 90 minutes you sit at your desk, spend 10 minutes taking a walk, stretching your muscles or climbing stairs.
- Finding something you love to do – hike, ski, dance, rollerskate - so it doesn’t seem like another sacrifice of your time and energy.
- Giving something else up, like television. You might find you miss it less than you think.
Physical activity is great for fighting stress. But sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we still need outside help coping with stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional problems. In these situations, there are people who can help, like mental health professionals, social workers, and clergy. Don’t let stress get out of hand. There’s a lot you can do to control it.
- Yoga Yields Mind And Body Fitness
Yoga relieves stress through breathing, meditation, and movement.
- Martial Arts Made Friendly
Martial arts can relieve stress and improve fitness.
- Keep Active: Get Movin’ at 50 Plus
A free, one hour on-line seminar that explains how some regular activities, like gardening, vacuuming or walking, can help you reach your fitness goals.
- Fitness: Working Out
Exercises don’t have to be boring. There are lots of fun ways to work out and get fit, whether that’s in a pool or working out with yoga or Pilates.
- The Mind-Body Connection: Exercise And Stress
Exercise and physical activity are powerful and readily available tools for preventing and treating symptoms of stress.
- Mind-Body Medical Institute
Information from Harvard University on how exercise and other techniques can reduce stress.
Content courtesy of AARP content