Ah, September! That wonderful time of year when we get our small beautiful town back from the tourists, the heat calms down, the trees start to turn beautiful colors — and school starts! Accccckkkkkk! Back-to-school shopping, school supplies, getting your classrooms ready, new clothes, new shoes, new haircuts, new schools, new homework, new friends…
It’s a very busy and overwhelming time of year, which can cause a lot of stress that isn’t really that great for us. Stress that is left untreated can have negative effects on us that we aren’t even aware of: increases in cortisol levels, disruptions in our sleep patterns, high blood pressure and even an increased risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Well, how do I reduce my stress levels you ask? Yep, you got it: Exercise! The benefits of exercise are both mental and physical. Regular exercise will have amazing effects on your body, your metabolism, your heart and your spirits.
The mental and emotional benefits of exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and it also releases endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. They leave you with a feeling of relaxation and optimism.
Studies also show that exercise helps reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration and enhance overall cognitive function.
Behavioral factors also contribute, such as increased confidence as you see the results in the mirror and a new-found sense of pride for accomplishing goals that you’ve set for yourself! Exercise will even help you with discipline in your everyday activities.
“I don’t have time to exercise.”
We hear that often, but you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym to get the physiological, mental and emotional benefits of exercise. The Department of Health & Human Services recommends that healthy adults include 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week to have positive effects on health. That’s 20 minutes a day!
Scientists have found that participation in regular exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem. Even five minutes has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects. We can all do that for our health.
Yoga, a 20-minute jog, a 30-minute walk, climbing the stairs in your house — all of these things don’t take much time and can have huge impacts on your stress levels and your physical well-being.
Bottom line: Movement is medicine. We can all get caught up with the stress of our everyday lives, but if we don’t find a way to relieve our stress, we can get caught in a vicious cycle and our health declines. Take a walk on our beautiful beach, ride your bike, go for a swim. Take just 20 minutes a day to do something active, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you will feel.
Erik Schreiber is the owner/operator of CustomFit360 in Millville. He is a metabolic conditioning coach, lifestyle and weight-management specialist, and certified nutrition specialist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 626-3157.
By Erik Schreiber
Special to the Coastal Point