By: Wendy Hunt for the Mansfield Pointe Claire
Black Friday shopping, end of year deadlines, meal planning, shopping, Christmas parties, family gatherings, too much food, too little sleep… The first thing to go is what you need most: exercise. You have too much to do, feel too tired or will do it tomorrow.
We all know that there are plenty of physical benefits to regular exercise. These include better weight control, decreased blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers as well as strengthening of both muscles and bones.
But you may not know that exercise has powerful and effective stress busting benefits. During and following exercise the brain releases a bunch of “feel good” neurotransmitters that work to elevate mood and improve sleep. Exercise also has psychological effects like improved self esteem and a sense of calm due to the time out from stress and anxiety. Bottom line? Exercise is empowerment.
All of the stress reducing effects of exercise can have an important positive effect on your interpersonal relationships, productivity and sense of well being as well as your health. It is for all these reasons that the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise 5 times per week.
But what the experts do not seem to understand is that when you feel out of control, you don’t exercise; yet experts are also saying you need to exercise to feel in control. Catch 22?
STOP. BREATHE. RESET.
A common mistake is thinking that exercise needs to be a huge work out. Setting the bar too high only sets up barriers. Right now the goal of exercise is to relax and empower, not to “train” – although there will surely be a training effect.
Remember, when it comes to exercise as “seasonal stress reducing therapy”, a little does goes a long way and is a whole lot better than nothing. Take a 30-minute brisk walk outside to enjoy some fresh air, sneak out to a yoga class or do a 20 minute run on the treadmill or join a group class at the gym. Mix it up! When it comes to the stress busting benefits of exercise, showing up really is 90% of the work because showing up puts you back in the driver seat and will give you a renewed sense of calm. A great way to reduce stress is by hiking.
And if you would like to add some oxytocin to your brain’s feel good cocktail, once you are showered, go give a friend a hug. Studies show that giving – or receiving – a hug can also lower blood pressure, ease stress and sends calming messages to the brain.
Maybe the Centre for Disease Control should add this as a daily requirement to their exercise regimen?
Wendy Hunt’s professional career spans over 25 years working as a nurse and clinical researcher in the biotech industry. An avid cyclist, tennis player and cross country skier, Wendy brings her love of sport and her healthcare background to offer a unique perspective on issues related to health and fitness.