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Reduce Stress with Exercise

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Whether it’s a tough situation at work, money problems, or relationship drama, stress can take its toll. Luckily, research has found that instead of considering punching that co-worker who’s frustrating you, it might be more effective to take that right hook to a punching bag.

Exercise Releases Stress-Busting Chemicals
We know exercise is physically good for our body, but there are also a lot of stress-busting benefits. “Biochemically, exercise has effects on serotonin (the feel-good hormone), endorphins (nature’s pain reliever), and norepinephrine (a stress hormone),” Briana Villafuerte, an exercise specialist and pers onal trainer explains. “Basically these are stress and mood hormones and exercise helps balance these out.” In addition, endorphins help relieve pain, which produce a feeling of wellbeing and release negative stress from the body. Exercise can also give you a natural mood boost, often referred to as a “runner’s high.”

But the benefits of exercise aren’t just about your hormones—getting exercise forces you to change your environment, which also helps to clear your head. “Most forms of exercise require the person to focus on what they are doing and not what they were thinking prior to entering the gym,” Villafuerte says. “In a class you have to listen to the instructor. In Yoga you have to clear your mind and figure out how the heck you are going to get your leg over there. When lifting you have to count and push yourself to finish the set. It simply gives you something else to think about.”

Workouts Put You in Control
Many stressors also deal with control. While you can’t yell at your boss or get rid of someone’s illness, you can create an exercise routine. “This routine gives us a sense of control and consistency in a crazy world and that has a calming effect,” Villafuerte explains.

Research also suggests that physical activity may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress, so those that get more exercise may be less affected by the stress they face. “Regular exercise can actually benefit you in this area, too, as it helps you to become more in tune with your own body, so when it comes time to cool it down, you have more control,” personal trainer Gloria Vitolo says.

Look Better, Feel Better
On a superficial level, the better you look, the better you feel. “Exercise also increases one’s self-esteem; doing something that is good for your body and mind is treating yourself in a loving way, which has a cyclical effect,” Vitolo said. The more confidence you have, the more ability you have to deal with the ups and downs of life.

As far as what exercises you should do, it depends not only on what your stress is, but also on what kind of exercise you enjoy. If you are dealing with anxiety, Yoga may be what the doctor ordered. The term Yoga, which derives from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, means to unite or join. Yoga has been touted for its soothing effects; discipline, breathing control, stretching, and meditation are all major aspects of the practice.

Tire Anger Out
If your stress comes from anger or frustration, maybe you need something that physically tires you out. “I personally love lifting weights. Give me something heavy to push around and I feel like no one can mess with me,” Villafuerte said. “Try a class you have never tried before and be open to laughing at yourself. Why do people love dance classes, step, or aqua aerobics? Because it lets you shake it out. Something that makes you smile is always best for you.” 

Originally published on InnerRewards


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