Six Stress Busting Tips, Continued--The Importance of Exercise
By Kitty J. Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, Certified Life Strategies &
Stress Management Coach
This is the fourth in a series of articles that I have been writing about things you can do to reduce or eliminate stress in your life. The first important thing to remember is to stay well hydrated by drinking 6-8 8 ounce glasses of water each day. The second important thing to remember is to eat well. The third thing is to get 6 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep each night and to try to make sure that it is high quality, uninterrupted sleep.
Today I would like to write about the fourth stress busting tip that is important to remember, and that is to get adequate and appropriate exercise. Everyone should strive to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise into their daily routine at least five days a week. The type and form of exercise can vary from person to person.
The merits of exercise are generally accepted even by those who don't incorporate exercise into their daily routines. People know that exercise is good for them. There can be little debate about that. It is a proven fact that exercise builds muscle, increases lung capacity, improves cardiovascular function, and triggers the release of chemicals that counteract the effects of stress.
Even though it is generally acknowledged and accepted that exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, it is often the first thing we tend to eliminate when we get busy. It is just all to easy to think that we can postpone exercise until "later," but the fact is that unless we schedule it into our days, it is easy for "later" to never arrive.
Not enough of us are making exercise a priority in our lives. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are no more fit today than we were in 1990 with only about 25% of us getting enough exercise to achieve any health benefits. Perhaps even more significantly, it is generally accepted that lack of exercise, improper diet, and smoking are all contributing factors toward both heart disease and cancer.
Moderate exercise engaged in on a regular basis may be the single most effective way to get stress under control as well as to improve your general health and sense of overall well-being. Exercise can go a long way toward releasing the hormones that are produced when you are experiencing a stressful situation at home or at work. And the exercise need not be strenuous. A brisk walk for 30 minutes will accomplish the task.
Other benefits of regular exercise include the following:
- Muscle strength
- Increased flexibility
- Increased heart and lung efficiency
- Decreased risk of developing heart disease
- Decreased risk of developing lung disease
- Improved circulation
- Reduced cholesterol levels
- Strengthened immune system
- Loss of excess body fat
- Decreased risk of diabetes
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased mental acuity
- Improved self-image
- Decreased effects of stress
- Improved ability to manage stress
Once you have accepted that exercise is important, if you haven't been exercising regularly, the next step is to find an exercise that will appeal to you and that you will continue to enjoy after the first day or so. Some suggestions for alternatives that you might enjoy include:
- Step Aerobics
- Your choice of team sports (weekend football games, tennis, racquetball, playground basketball games, beach volleyball)
- And many more
In addition to getting some sort of aerobic exercise on a regular basis, lifting weights is also very beneficial for adults. It builds bone mass and can reverse osteoporosis. It increases muscle tone and helps your body to burn more calories because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the aerobic portion of your workout. Stronger muscles means everyday efforts, from bringing in the grocery bags to carrying small children gets easier.
I could easily keep rhapsodizing about the benefits of daily exercise, but I think you get the point. Exercise is not only an important stress reducer, it is absolutely necessary for long term health and an increased sense of well-being.
Next week, I will write about the fifth "tip" that I offered in my earlier article about six stressing busting tips--looking at life from the lighter side. Until then, you now have four things to try to incorporate into your daily routine...drinking plenty of water; eating well; getting enough sleep; and exercising your body.