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  • Exercise for Stress Relief

    ExerciseWe all know that exercise is good for us and our bodies, but rarely do we focus on the fact that exercising can be extremely beneficial to our mind and overall wellbeing.

    It is estimated that in the United States, approximately 7.3% of the adult population has an anxiety disorder that necessitates some form of treatment (Regier et al., 1988). In addition, stress-related emotions, such as anxiety, are common among healthy individuals (Cohen, Tyrell, & Smith, 1991). Whether you have a diagnosis of one of these conditions, or you simply get sad or stressed every now and again (who doesn’t?), we have found that exercise can be just as effective as other treatment methods.

    I’ll be the first to tell you that I despise running.  It’s boring.  Even with my hatred for the activity, I have found that it’s the best remedy when I’m feeling angry, sad, or confused. Running does it for me, but this can differ from person to person.  I encourage you to try some activities during those times when you’re in a slump.  See what works for you!

    How many times have you had to talk yourself into getting that work out in?  There’s a battle in your mind on why you shouldn’t exercise – “I haven’t eaten in 3 hours, I can’t exercise on an empty stomach”  “It’s too hot out”  “I deserve a break”.  I challenge you though – how many times post-workout have you regretted that workout?  I can guess that this number is extremely small to non-existent.   Evaluate yourself during these battles and start a one-page journal.  What barriers are you finding you deal with?  When you talk yourself into doing it, what’s the thought that pushes you over the edge? Documenting can make all the difference. 

    Expand your horizons – I’m not a dancer (at all… no, really) but I have found that I get much joy out of Zumba.  I feel like I’m a good dancer (whether I am or not is irrelevant).  No one else there cares what I look like because they’re in the same boat as me.  I am in a guaranteed good mood after a Zumba class.  Some people get this feeling from a spinning class.  Some like to concoct their own workout, solo, in a gym or their basement.  You may find a group class works better for you.  Find an activity that you don’t have to con yourself into participating in.  There’s one out there for you, you just need to find it! 

    Reduced Anxiety

    • You get the best results with “Aerobic exercise
    • You’ll notice the biggest difference after a couple weeks of regular exercise (if you don’t feel it right away, don’t give up!  It’s all a process)
    • Best benefits are to those who are low fit to begin with (hey, that’s good news for most of us, right?)
    • Best benefits for those high in anxiety to begin with

    Reduced Depression

    •  Best with more vigorous exercise
    •  Best when done several times a week (after a couple of weeks)

    Studies also show that activity is associated directly with positive self-esteem and restful sleep.  Americans are so busy nowadays and so tied up in their work, that it’s hard to fit it all in. See if your workplace has a wellness program or offers onsite fitness classes at lunch time or even before work. If they DON’T offer these options… ask your HR representative. Worksite wellness is an up and coming field. Your workplace won’t know that you want these options unless someone tells them.

    Toni Sperlbaum is a Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist at Metro Health        Hospital in Wyoming, MI.  She also serves on the board of the Executive Leadership Board for the American Heart Association.

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