Whether we like it or not, stress is a natural part of life. It can’t be avoided but if it’s not controlled, it can wreak all sorts of havoc with anxiety and disease. Chronic stress has proven to be a major cause of heart disease, weight gain, weakened immune system and more.
But you can combat this. Discover how you can gain benefits while losing stress and kilos.
What is Stress?
Stress is a change of physiological state necessary for survival. In the face of danger, the brain releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These amplify your breathing, heart-rate and tense your muscles, preparing you for fight or flight response.
This was vital for everyday life in the cave-man days, when we lived among wild animals. However, elevated stress levels were only designed for short-term reactions (like running from that sabre-tooth tiger).
Stuck in Survival Mode
Many people today deal with chronic stress. As humans evolved, we developed abilities like imagination and self-recognition. However, the survival brain doesn’t know the difference between real or imagined situations. Therefore, it can release the stress hormones far more regularly than necessary.
Constant elevated stress levels can cause many issues:
- Mood swings/irritability
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Anxiety and depression
- Headaches/high blood pressure
- Low immune system
- Digestion problems
- Heart complications
What Can Help You Stress Less?
Exercise; it can improve you mentally and physically. It combats stress by releasing endorphins. These chemicals are a natural painkiller that stimulate the body. People who exercise often report feeling exhilarated afterwards, hence the term ‘runners high’.
Exercise stretches the muscles that have been chronically tensed and disrupts the mind from dwelling thoughts. Combine this with tools like meditation, yoga, healthy food and lifestyle choices, and you’ll be calm as a cucumber.
What You’ll Gain
You’ll sleep more easily and consistently. Lack of sleep affects growth hormones, insulin, ghrelin and leptin hormones, which control appetite and energy levels. This in turn affects mood and stress levels. By getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll reduce cravings for carbs and improve tolerance and focus.
Studies reveal that people who sleep for six hours or less are at greater risk for obesity. After a good workout, you’ll have no trouble catching some z’s.
Feel like punching your boss or that snarky colleague? You can release energy and vent your frustrations through exercise. This will be doing your figure a favour, without running the risk of losing your job!
Exercise releases dopamine which is a pleasure chemical, making you feel better regardless of your day. Stress less by using negative feelings to gain a positive body. I know what choice I’d be making…
Beside releasing your work frustrations, exercise can help in many other ways. It can boost your confidence to a whole new level. By pushing yourself, you’ll prove to yourself that you can overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. You’ll believe in yourself, which can filter into other areas of your life.
Exercise makes you feel good inside. In time, that can reflect on the outside as well.
Exercise boosts the brain in several ways. It creates neurotransmitters (such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that produce new brain cells. It also improves memory by increasing the size of the Hippocampus in the brain.
It sharpens the mind, making you more alert and aware of your surroundings. It improves mindfulness, allowing you to break from your thoughts and be in the moment.
All the more reason to stress less with exercise.
What You’ll Lose
Thanks to exercise, you can lose more than just fat:
It’s not all about how you look, but what’s going on underneath the surface. Exercise will improve your cardiovascular system (breathing and heart rate), so no more huffing and puffing through life.
It affects your metabolism, having more control over insulin (a factor of diabetes). It boosts your immune system, allowing you to stave off foreign viruses, and it helps build muscle. Having a body that’s operating properly heavily impacts everyday stress levels.
Exercise can alleviate anxiety and depression in a number of ways:
- It interrupts repetitive thought patterns.
- It encourages you outdoors, boosting serotonin levels from the sun.
- Reduces mood swings by producing ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain.
- Encourages social interaction.
- Reduces dependency on external influences (alcohol, cigarettes etc.)
- Raises self-esteem naturally.
Improving your overall mood and self-worth can help you cope better with stressful situations.
A Ton of Weight
It’s no secret that regular exercise–combined with healthy eating–can make a difference to your figure. It boosts your metabolism, allowing your body to burn fat more efficiently. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.
Keeping fit and busy cuts back on emotional/boredom eating. It stimulates energy neurotransmitters in the brain, improving motivation and energy levels. Experts suggest the formula to weight loss is calories in vs calories out. Exercising regularly will help you burn off more calories than you consume. Carting around less weight can ease stress from the body and mind.
What About You?
As you can see, by adding exercise to your weekly routine, you have everything to gain and only negative things to lose. What else in life can give you so many benefits for free?