There are many benefits to be gained from having some form of regular physical activity not least of which is a noticeable reduction in stress. Don’t make the mistake of being put off by the belief that regular exercise has to be a chore you need self-discipline to maintain. To get real benefits you don’t have to do that much, particularly if you do very little to start with.
We also find that an individual’s motivation to exercise increases when they realise that the main benefits are not physical, but are in fact mental and emotional. When consultants are asked which individual stress management technique produces the best results, most will say that if they had to choose only one, it would be a regular exercise programme.
So why is regular exercise so good for stress management? The main reasons are:
- Increases physical and mental energy
- Naturally lifts your mood
- Increases your self-esteem
These three ingredients make us more confident and positive about our ability to cope with demands and to rise to challenges, whereas one of the main causes of stress is a perception or belief that you can’t cope. Why is exercise so good for managing our stress?
- Improved blood flow to the brain brings extra oxygen and sugar which boosts your concentration and alertness.
- The faster blood flow through the brain carries away more toxic materials and waste products which slow you down
- Endorphin production increases improving mood and feelings of well-being
Remember, these benefits stay with you at all times, not just when you are exercising. If you are not ready to join a fitness club here are a number of activities you can build into you daily routine:
- Revive an old aerobic activity you used to enjoy such as badminton, swimming or anything else you did before you became so busy
- Become a ‘stair person’ instead of using lifts all the time. You could start by going down the stairs and progress to going up
- Make yourself walk more by deliberately parking further away from your work or the shops. This usually reduces the stress of finding a parking space as well
- Instead of sitting down for a coffee break encourage a colleague to go for a walk with you
- Learn some basic stretching exercises and do them every morning as soon as you get up
- Join a dance club or get into the habit of doing your ‘Madonna’ routine in the living room
- Buy a bike or retrieve your old one from the garage
If you want a more regular approach think about exercising 3 times a week for 15 – 20 minutes. And forget the ‘no pain, no gain’ adage, unless you’re into that kind of thing it simply isn’t necessary.
Always remember that if you can’t carry on a conversation with the person next to you when you are exercising, you are exercising too hard!
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