Only one in three adults enjoys the recommended amount of exercise each week and less than 5% take part in 30 minute of exercise every day. Exercise plays a key role in preventing a wide gamut of diseases ranging from heart disease to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Regular activity can also help you battle stress and related conditions such as anxiety and depression. It can lift your mood and energy levels and even promote better sleep. Some of the most recent studies on the subject show that exercise can be a vital ally when times are tough and you need to boost mental resilience. Why is it important to make activity part of your daily routine and how can you make the most of it to enjoy better health and wellbeing?
Study after study has pointed to the many ways in which exercise can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
Exercise vs Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common conditions faced by people across the globe. Among the list of natural methods used to reduce symptoms of these conditions, exercise rates highly. One study by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet found that exercise induces changes in skeletal muscle that helps eliminate a substance that accumulates during stress, from the blood. This substance is harmful to the brain, so it is important to embrace activities that stop it from reaching this vital organ.
Other studies have shown that exercises like running can help protect the brain from the effects of stress – for instance, it can help people protect important memory and learning functions. Yet other studies have shown that exercise has similar beneficial effects on children, in that it enables them to cope more efficiently with stressful situations, Finally, a study by University of Maryland researchers has found that moderate exercise can help people cope with stress and anxiety for an extended time after workouts – in other words, it can help safeguard the mind against future as well as current stress.
Stress affects both the body and mind, often causing aches and pains in areas such as the shoulders, back, and neck. In addition to complying with your recommended daily and weekly exercise targets, therefore, you should consider completing targeted exercise workouts centered on the neck muscles and upper back. The stronger these muscles are, the more you can maintain a good posture throughout the day and get rid of pain and tightness.
Top exercises to loosen tension in these areas include the chin tuck, side to side neck tilt, back burn exercise, and neck stretch. The latter is very easy and can be performed while you are at work. Just keep your back straight and stretch your chin forward until you feel the ‘burn’. Hold the position for five seconds, pull your chin backwards for about five seconds then repeat.
We know that exercise quells stress and helps prevent pain and disease. However, to meet recommended guidelines or even surpass them, it is important to stay motivated and there are many ways to do so. One is to exercise outdoors, since research indicates that doing so is more fun (and burns more calories) than gym workouts. Outdoor exercise also has a powerful effect on stress, with a recent study showing that just 10 minutes in a green area can significantly lower stress hormone levels.
For many people, working out as part of a group or duo is highly motivational as it lends a touch of competition and responsibility to your routine. Finally, enjoying a variety of activities (including those aimed at reducing stress – such as yoga and Tai Chi) will result in big benefits for your mental as well as your physical health.
Study after study has pointed to the many ways in which exercise can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Exercise can also be an excellent way to meet people and to engage in a group activity that sometimes takes on a profound spiritual or social significance. In order to stay motivated, aim to add variety in your workout and to take it outside as often as you can, so you can benefit from the healing effects of nature.
Have you used exercise to battle stress and lift your mood?
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