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Health & Fitness

A Note from Paula

Exercise and Stress: Fitting exercise into your routine can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
Source: Mayo Clinic

Exercise does your body good and any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. Regardless of your fitness level, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.

The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Exercise and its stress-busting benefits:

  • It pumps up your endorphins — your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters
  • It's meditation in motion — during exercise you’ll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements.
  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can ease the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.

A successful exercise program begins with a few simple steps:

  • The J recommends that if you haven't exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you should talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury. Here at the J, we have progression-level classes to help you gradually move toward your desired fitness level.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running). You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
  • Incorporate strength training exercises at least twice a week.
  • Carve out some time to move every day — make your exercise program an ongoing priority.
  • Do what you love. Any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy.

How can I stay committed to exercise after taking that first step?
The Health and Fitness Department suggests the following tips to get you on the path of a new routine or reviving a tired workout:

  • Set and write down your SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited goals.
  • Commit with a friend. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up can be a powerful incentive.
  • Change up your routine. If you always walk or run, try something different such as the J’s Stretch and Meditate or yoga classes.
  • Exercise in increments. If time is an issue, brief bouts of activity also offer benefits. If you can't fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. Interval training, which entails brief (60 to 90 seconds) bursts of intense activity, is being shown to be a safe, effective, and efficient way of gaining many of the benefits of longer duration exercise.

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