Body in motion Fitness

Stressed? Here’s why you should get moving


Stress has become an inevitable, omnipresent part of our lives. We all experience it to varying degrees. While some stress is good to spur us into action, and it is an important ingredient of our instinctive ‘flight or fight’ response, too much of it or too long with it impacts us negatively. This negative effect erodes our mental, emotional and physical equilibrium, leaving us drained, vulnerable, and in severe cases, incapacitated.

The triggers for stress (stressors) are varied, and so is each one’s response to them. As a stress response, the body produces larger quantities of chemicals like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, triggering both physical and psychological symptoms.

How stress affects the body

Raises blood pressure and pulse rate

Makes breathing faster, and often shallower

Tenses muscles (may even lead to muscular spasms)

Impairs the digestive and immune systems

Causes fatigue, skin irritations, headaches, excessive sweating, nightmares, among other symptoms

Impacts sleep, may cause insomnia

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto  


How stress affects the mind and behaviour

Fosters worrying, indecision, negativity, restlessness

Muddles thinking, impairs judgement

Triggers irritability, anger, depression, apathy, alienation, forgetfulness

Alters appetite (eating more/less)

Loss of sex drive

Can make one more accident-prone

Increased smoking, drinking


How does exercise help with stress?

You may not feel motivated to exercise, especially when stressed, but there are some strong reasons to add it to your stress-management plans.

Don’t like the word ‘exercise’? I recommend thinking more in terms of ‘movement’ than the traditional, limited interpretation of the word ‘exercise’ our minds instantly conjure up. Experience shows, for many, this association is unattractive and not really placed anywhere consequential on their list of ‘to-do’ things in life. My simple suggestion: choose any activity that invigorates and excites you, but also challenges you physically. It could be a sport, dance, walking, running, swimming, yoga or any structured programme. It’s a good start. This should equip you with an excuse-free way of addressing the ‘How?’

Now, here’s the ‘Why?’ Exercise (movement) improves your overall health and well-being, putting you physically and mentally more in control of your body and mind. It helps establish discipline in life in general, while keeping those important health parameters looking good. What it also does is, provide stress-reducing benefits. Exercise, especially of the aerobic variety, increases the production of ‘feel-good’ hormones in the body (endorphins). Endorphins are brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that reduce the perception of pain, produce feelings of euphoria, help modulate appetite, release sex hormones and enhance the immune system. That rush or ‘high’ you feel after a good run, game, or your favourite physical activity, is thanks in big part, to these endorphins. So these ‘happy hormones’ as they are sometimes alluded to, help to beat stress! Time and again, people respond by saying that their pain levels actually diminish when they pursue a regular exercise programme.

Combine this with focused breathing to aid your movements, and you get a great way to practise being mindful, refocus on yourself, away from the triggers, and reach out for action and positivity.

Make movement your friend

* You don’t need to pursue heavy-duty action to get the benefits. But remember, if it’s too comfortable it won’t engage you either physically or mentally, and the purpose is lost.

* Get outdoors with it, if you can. It’s refreshing, rejuvenating and helps one reconnect with the self.

* Exercise with friends. The company might elevate your mood and enjoyment.

* Try practices like meditation, chanting, and deep breathing. They calm the mind and have a deep, cellular impact as well.

* If you need to, split up the activity over small time segments during the course of the day. But be regular.

* I have always believed small can be big, provided you make it count. Move. Make yourself count.

Vani B Pahwa is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, a Master Rehab Trainer, a Functional Movement, Barefoot Training Specialist, BarefootRX Rehab Specialist, Foot & Gait Analyst, and a BOSU Personal Trainer. She is also a Mohiniyattam dancer

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:52:58 PM |

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