judy-springer-cropped

By Judy Springer, MATC physical education instructor

No time… Too tired… No fun… I feel out of place… What’s in it for me?

Too often the excuses for exercising outweigh the desire to get moving.  However, when using the following strategies, physical activity seems to be the perfect remedy for many of life’s ills. Let’s “walk” through the most up-to-date information on managing stress effectively for better health and wellness.

Winning Tool for Stress Relief

Stress is an undeniable part of life. Seven of 10 adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives. In most cases, physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing daily stress. While there are many coping techniques such as reading and talking with others, exercise with its physical and mental benefits may be the one most recommended by health professionals. Studies suggest that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function.

Physical activity bumps up the production of endorphins – your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. It also improves the ability to sleep, which in turn aids in managing stress. Conventional wisdom holds that a regular low-to-moderate activity habit makes you feel energized and healthy by decreasing overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood and improves self-esteem. Even five minutes of walking the hallways between classes or during lunch time can set ‘anti-anxiety’ processes in motion.

Activity to Counter Family History of Heart Disease

The holiday season often means spending more time with family and friends. Spending time with family can be fun and energizing, but also reminds us that our own health is impacted by our genetics. A new analysis of data published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests good news is at hand – our genetics are only one factor when it comes to the risk for heart disease. By choosing healthy lifestyles –not smoking; exercising moderately; and eating a healthy diet heavy in fruits, vegetables and whole grains – individuals can reduce the effect of being dealt a less than optimal genetic hand. 

Let Your Routine Take Shape

A successful exercise and lifestyle activity program begins with a few simple steps. Start low and go slow. Build up your fitness routine gradually. Consistency is the key to managing stress through physical activity, so begin at a level that is comfortable for you to take small, manageable steps to better health. For instance, taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great way to “sneak” in exercise during the day. Parking the car as far from the entrance as possible is a great aid in increasing steps throughout the day.

Choose activities you enjoy. Practically any form of exercise or movement can improve fitness while decreasing stress. The most important thing is to choose an activity that you enjoy. Cycling, stair climbing, yoga, walking, running, swimming, weightlifting and gardening are all examples of movement activities.

Still searching for an option? Students can enroll in an MATC physical education course to try their hands at dance, yoga, basketball, or volleyball. You will have a blast AND earn college credit. Or try the Student Fitness Center for a quick workout between classes or as an “end-of-day” stress reliever. Faculty and staff can choose professional development classes to earn credit while working out to relax, participate in an open gym session or hike the hallways to clear their minds.

physical-activity-2

physical-activity-1

Photos taken during MATC physical education courses.

Schedule your activity. Planning some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program more of a habit, which leads to consistency and desired outcomes. Record your proposed activity in your calendar to ensure that your daily dose is taken as prescribed. 

Know Your Resources

Starting an exercise program is just the first step. Here are some tips for tapping into tried and true strategies to stick with a new routine or reinvigorate a tired workout:

Buddy up. Having a friend waiting for you to work out acts as a powerful incentive to edge away from your desk at lunch or after work. You may find the encouragement and healthy competition from a friend to be the perfect fit for sustained participation.

Mix it up. Choosing a new activity or revisiting a past interest may be just the thing to add a new spark to your routine. If you are a fan of strength training, you might enjoy the flexibility benefits of yoga. For those with a cardio preference, tai chi or an exercise ball class may pique your interest in a balance routine.

Enlist the support of your four-legged friend. Evidence supports that 60 percent of dog owners in the United States meet the minimum requirements of physical activity by walking the dog two times per day. The time outside will rejuvenate you and your furry companion for better health and stress relief.

Think of physical activity as your ‘secret weapon’ to manage stress. Identify an activity you enjoy — whether it’s a winding stroll around the campus hallways or an evening volleyball match — and make it part of your healthy lifestyle for the new year. Any form of physical activity will help you separate from stress. Put physical activity to work for you today!

References

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (n.d.) Physical activity reduces stress. Available at https://goo.gl/1wSeYx

Ham SA, Epping J (2006) Dog walking and physical activity in the United States.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Preventing Chronic Disease, Volume 3: No. 2.  Available at https://goo.gl/ilQAEe

Kihera AV, Connor AE, Drake I et al.  (2016) Genetic risk, adherence to a healthy lifestyle, and coronary disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, 10:1056 Available at https://goo.gl/RIAPYj

Kolata G (2016, November 13) Genetic heart disease risk eased by healthy habits, study finds.  The New York Times.  Available at https://goo.gl/bGArYp

Mayo Clinic (2015, April 16). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress.  Available at https://goo.gl/BWrLQf

 

 

Advertisements