According to the American Heart Association, stress left unchecked may lead to any of the following health challenges: aches and pains, reduced energy levels, poorer quality of sleep, depressed or negative feelings, and altered disposition. Exercise has been proven to be an effective tool in stress management. Following a consistent workout routine will improve the body’s stress response. Be sure to consult a physician prior to initiating any type of exercise program.
There is good stress and there is bad stress. Good stress comes from the energy needed to execute desirable activities ranging from a challenge at work or school, to athletic competitions, and even hobbies. Bad stress can be defined as the condition that results when one is overwhelmed and unable to resolve problems. Financial struggles, health crises, death and loss, family strife, poor work environment, and legal trouble all place negative stress on the body. Bad stress manifests itself adversely on the vital organs quickly and in more detrimental ways. Even with good stress, it is important to rest, relax, and recharge on a regular basis.
Exercise is medicine. Even vintage cars need to be taken out of the garage and driven on the open road to keep the engine well-tuned periodically. One of the easiest ways to incorporate exercise into a consistent routine is to stretch the body three times per day: once upon rising, once midday, and once at bedtime. Without realizing it, stress causes muscles to tighten which affects good posture. Some people clench their teeth, while others tense the shoulders and neck. Low back pain is also a common complaint. Attending a yoga class a few times a week is great for physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Another great way to exercise and relieve stress is to walk for at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. Some days can be relaxing strolls while other days can be more challenging by increasing speed and/or distance walked.
For those who are short on time, but still want the benefits of intense exercise, circuit training is recommended. To warm up the body, perform some light stretches. Then, perform 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, and 10 pushups with no breaks in-between. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat the circuit 3-5 times. This type of program requires no equipment and can be performed almost anywhere several times per day.
When life seems to be spinning out of control, it may be helpful to hire a personal trainer or find a committed workout partner to maintain focus. During these times, stress management is most difficult. It may also be desirable to participate in sports like boxing to work off feelings of anger and aggression. Martial arts can accomplish the same goals while learning obedience, perseverance, discipline, and self-control.
A consistent workout routine is a critical element of effective stress management. Exercise leads to improved mood and disposition, clarity of thought, reduced blood pressure, improved quality of sleep, and increased energy. Therefore, it is easier to solve problems and maintain a better outlook for the future.