5 Ways Exercise Can Help Manage Stress

Do you find yourself fighting between one thought and the next, trying to keep your train of thought on the right track?  Feeling like you’re trying to keep your head afloat while life itself is pulling at your feet?  Perhaps two analogies is enough, but you get the drift.  Stress.  It tends to interfere and have us feeling out of control.  But, there’s good news.  What if I told you that as little as 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week could help you get a handle on that stress load?

To begin, it’s important to note that stress is subjective.  It affects each of us very differently.  It could be brought on by a crazy day at the office, a trip down memory lane, or maybe the act of something not happening that you’ve been patiently (or not so patiently) anticipating.

The American Institute of Stress says it best with a Roller Coaster Analogy.  I know what you’re thinking; another one, Alli?  Bear with me.  Sitting in the front row tend to be the adventurers with their hands waving high in the air with excitement (think air dancer).  At the back, which is where I’d be, are those hanging on for dear life, wondering why on earth they took a seat to begin with?  The same situation experienced quite differently by everyone on board.

Now for the stress-relieving stuff: Exercise!

  1. Happy Hormones! 
    Endorphins are released from our pituitary gland (found in our brain) during periods of exercise and help to regulate our mood and induce feelings of happiness.
  2. Neuron Development.
    Exercise contributes to increased neurons in the hippocampus, an area within the brain involved with memory storing and stress regulation.
  3. Bye-bye Cortisol.
    Excess cortisol, which often builds up due to high levels of stress or inactivity, can be brought back to normal levels with a little bit of daily movement.
  4. Synchronized Systems. 
    Our cells create tissues, which create organs, which create the many different systems within our body – from our circulatory system which supplies our cells with oxygenated blood to our nervous system which is essentially our main control center.  Exercise helps to sync all of these systems and creates an efficient network.
  5. Mind – Body Connection.
    It strengthens with each minute of mindful movement.  The more we understand how our body functions, the more we become in tune with our physiological and psychological needs.  To understand is to feel a sense of peacefulness.

I think Jill Botte Taylor says it best (author of My Stroke of Insight), “To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful.  It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of hectic life.”

Stress is real, and though some days hopelessness may be your strongest emotion, remember the glass is always half full.  Allow time for YOU because you deserve it.  Start off with 10 minutes, a walk down your block or dust off that old Pilates dvd and give it a try, see how you feel.  Find your blissful place and visit it often.