Everyone knows that stress is inevitable. Be it a tough class, drowning under deadlines, or worrying about tuition, stress happens. Unmanaged stress can lead to depression, anxiety, and health issues including heart disease and hypertension. Some people manage their stress through overeating or distracting themselves in technology. Aerobic exercise is a constructive way to manage stress and release negative feelings.
Aerobic exercise is beneficial for depression, anxiety, and stress. During and after physical activity, neurochemicals known as serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine are released in the brain. The “feel good” neurochemical endorphins cause an exhilarated and happy feeling, or in sports slang, the “runner’s high.” Serotonin is responsible for restful sleep and happiness. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable feelings. During exercise, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can make us feel bad, are decreased. Besides for the neurochemical responses, exercise will take your mind off whatever is bothering you and give you a needed break from worrying and stress.
We know that exercise is a healthful way to deal with stress. So how much do we need, and what constitutes aerobic exercise? The latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a weekly goal of 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75-150 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise to stay healthy. That may seem like a lot, but a caveat of the latest guidelines is that you can accumulate the total volume with exercise bouts of any length of time, even just climbing a few flights of stairs. Exercise can be recreational or competitive sports, jogging, biking, walking, or going to exercise classes. What’s most important is finding one you enjoy so you’ll be motivated to stick with it.
Most of us know that exercise is important and good for us, so why is it so hard for us to stick to a regular exercise program? Most of us lead very busy lives, and sometimes we put our needs at the bottom of the list of things to do. That’s why it can be very beneficial to join an exercise class or work with a personal trainer so you have a scheduled appointment every week. A knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer can also custom tailor a safe routine to fit your individual needs.
So before you sit down to numb out in front of the TV (been there) or binge on a pint of ice cream (sadly done that), go outside for a brisk walk! Besides for the spike in the beneficial neurochemicals, the exercise will improve your emotional and physical health. And your waistline will thank you for staying away from the dairy from heaven!