“Your brain does not live in a jar, disconnected from the world. It is interconnected with your body, so the things you do with your body affect your neurochemistry. Your brain does not like being idle; it comes with a body, and it wants to use it.”
~Alex Korb PhD – neuroscientist
When you experience fear or anxiety your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These contribute towards the physical symptoms you experience as stress.
During the last twenty years several hundred studies have looked at the impact of physical activity on stress and depression and found that doing something physical is possibly the most straightforward and powerful way to cope with the symptoms.
- uses up our surplus stress hormones.
- benefits not only our body but also our brain.
- reduces our anxiety level. It helps us keep our worries from overwhelming us, because it can change our focus from our thoughts to our body.
- improves our mood by triggering the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both of which are natural anti-depressants.
- improves our sleep pattern and improves the quality of our sleep, making it more restorative for our brain.
- gives us more energy and vitality.
- makes us mentally sharper and better at planning and decision making.
The experts recommend about 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Any physical activity that gets us up and moving helps us cope with stress.
Research suggests that:
- moderate physical activity is better than none, and moderate activity results in many of the health benefits of intense exercise. In fact normal, routine activities like doing the vacuuming, mowing the lawn, kicking a ball around in the garden with your children, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, washing the car, and walking instead of catching the bus or going by car, all deliver benefits.
- physical activity doesn’t have to be continuous, intensive or vigorous to be beneficial. A few short periods of moderate activity throughout the day soon add up to a lot of activity, so every little bit of activity counts regardless of how short it is.
How does physical activity help relieve stress?
As well as using up stress hormones and allowing muscles to relax, numerous studies have demonstrated that physical activity and exercise has an effect on the brain similar to that of antidepressants. It increases the level of the natural neurochemicals serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. It also releases endorphins. Endorphin release is highest during intense exercise so if you can manage to push yourself through a hard workout, you'll get a bigger endorphin boost.
Some tips for getting up and getting moving....
Of course, when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, physical activity can feel like the last thing you want to do. Taking one small step is all it takes, because once you get moving, you will find it makes a difference, easing the symptoms and helping you feel better.
Here are seven tips for getting up and getting moving on a daily basis:
- start off slow and simple. Get active in your own way. Do it at your pace and ability. Any little thing you do is a step in the right direction. With each little bit of exercise you complete it becomes easier, because once you get started, it becomes self-sustaining. As you get fitter and healthier you may choose to increase the intensity.
- the more fun you make the physical activity/exercise the more likely you are to get moving.
- pick an activity you can participate in with others, e.g. go walking/swimming with a friend, join a yoga class, play football with your children. As well as the benefits of connecting with other people, when you’ve promised someone else that you’ll show up, you’re more likely to do so.
- walking is good – anyone can do it at any age and any fitness level. Walking is also a great way to connect with nature. Research shows that walking in green spaces – the park or countryside is highly beneficial.
- connect your physical activity/exercise to a long-term goal e.g. weight loss, completing a 5k fun run. This helps your brain overlook momentary discomfort and makes your exercise more satisfying.
- keep an exercise plan. Add physical activity/exercise on your ‘to do’ list or calendar and check it off when you complete it. Checking activity off once you’ve completed it releases dopamine.
- incentivize yourself by creating your own reward scheme. For every 10 hours of physical activity/exercise reward yourself with perhaps: a trip to the movies, a new book, a DVD, some flowers. If the going gets tough focusing on your reward can help you push on through.
When it comes to coping with stress, any physical activity is better than doing nothing. To really reap the benefits of physical activity you've got to engage in it daily, make it a habit and be patient - give it time to take effect.Remember that even if it doesn't feel like the physical activity is working; it's still causing tons of unnoticed brain changes, modifying circuits, releasing positive neurochemicals, and burning up stress hormones. And that means your mental and physical well-being is improving.
So what are you going to do today to burn off those excess stress hormones?
Call me now on 021 056 8389 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how I can help you can gain freedom from worry, and reduce anxiety and stress.
Have a positive week.
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of personal change to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise is in helping people perform under pressure and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.