There have been some unexpected challenges thrown at us during 2021 – health concerns, social isolation, accommodation uncertainty or financial worries – and stressors impact body and mind.
The body responds to threat by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. It increases mental alertness and releases the cortisol hormone into your bloodstream. These responses can help in acute situations such as avoiding a car accident.
But today’s stressors are so frequent that our system can become overloaded. This can damage health and increase the risk of diseases such as atherosclerosis and depression. Exercise can counterbalance this.
A study in Chicago compared the stress responses of people who exercise at least once a week with those who don’t. All 111 participants self-evaluated their mood before and after the test. It included making a speech to two examiners and doing some maths problems. The test exercisers had a small drop in mood while the non-exercisers showed a greater decline in mood and positivity.
The authors concluded that exercise is correlated with emotional resilience. When you exercise, the body produces endorphins which can stimulate a feeling of wellbeing.
Exercise puts the body under controlled stress which can train it to be less reactive to life’s troublesome events. It can be meditation in motion, a way to escape thoughts and enjoy being one with movements. I encourage everyone to make exercise part of a stress management plan. Here are a few ideas:
- Choose an activity you enjoy. Try something new, such as dancing, kayaking or joining a Bushcare group.
- Get social. When you exercise with a friend you are more likely to stick to your plan. Swimming, tennis and walking are ideal.
- Walk someone else’s dog with Pets for Life on the Sunshine Coast. The co-ordinator will pair you up with a dog-owner who is no longer able to walk their furry friend. Call the Caloundra Community Centre on 5491 4000.
Tristan Hall is an exercise physiologist with Full Circle Wellness. Call 0431 192 284 or visit fullcirclewellness.com.au