An abundance of scientific evidence shows that exercise provides both short and long term physical and mental health benefits. Yet, even though we know physical activity can actually make us feel better almost immediately, it’s still hard for many of us to find the time and the motivation to exercise regularly. When we realize that we are in control of our lifestyle choices and that those choices can either positively or negatively influence our health, we may begin to see the benefits of “self-medicating” with exercise. No matter what activity we choose, as soon as movement begins, the body responds within seconds by increasing the heart rate, burning calories for fuel and delivering blood and oxygen to the muscles. And, as if by magic, we get an immediate boost in mood.
Well, not magic exactly, but exercise is a very essential part of good body function and a very good way to combat stress. Why? Because exercise helps to deplete stress hormones and releases mood enhancing chemicals known as endorphins and neurotransmitters. When you feel you are just too tired to exercise, you may very well be experiencing the negative effects of stress. Chronic stress that results in higher levels of continually circulating cortisol has been shown to be highly deleterious to adrenal, thyroid, immune and cognitive functions and has been linked to sleep disruption, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar imbalances. Endorphins help to combat these negative effects by increasing energy, relieving pain, enhancing the immune response and elevating our mood.
Tailoring your exercise needs to your stress level can help to ensure both short and long term physiological benefits. Even a single high intensity exercise session will stimulate the release of natural pain-relieving endorphins that help to minimize discomfort by activating opioid receptors in the brain. For many of us, 30 minutes of daily exercise will help reduce our stress load. Those who are chronically stressed may find they need to work out harder or longer to receive comparable benefits. And those neurotransmitters? Increased production of serotonin and norepinephrine during exercise are believed to help reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
According to sports and exercise psychologist J. Kip Matthews. Ph.D., “Exercise gives the body a chance to streamline the systems involved in the stress response.” In other words, “it gives the body an opportunity to practice dealing with stress,” and in turn, the stress response improves. “The less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress,” says Matthews. And, if you have ever wondered why some people commit to exercise and can’t wait to get to gym, yoga studio or tennis court, or go out for a walk or a run, it’s because they want to experience that “feel good” state that regular daily exercise produces. Studies have shown that if you can stick to an exercise routine for at least 2 weeks, you are likely to stay the course.
Along with good nutrition, regular exercise is one of the best and simplest ways to avoid medication-dependent chronic illness. By exercising regularly, you help stave off many of the unhealthy conditions attributed to the aging process. While stress management is a very good reason to get and stay active, there many other reasons to keep your body moving:
- Cardio exercise strengthens the lungs and heart, delivering more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, tissues and other organs
- Exercise provides an immune boost by elevating the level of immunoglobulins that help ward off infection
- As your body becomes leaner and stronger your endurance increases, along with your energy and overall fitness levels
- You preserve muscle mass and reduce overall body fat, including dangerous deep belly visceral fat, helping to control weight and prevent obesity, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome
- As your heart begins to pump more efficiently and your resting heart rate declines, you improve heart health and lower blood pressure, lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke
- The increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain helps to form new brain cells, resulting in better cognitive function and improved alertness and focus
- You improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels and reduce diabetes risk
- Exercising your body keeps your arteries, heart and muscles supple, improving cardiovascular function
- You strengthen your bones, improve your bone health and help prevent bone loss
- Exercise delivers nutrients to the skin, helps clean pores and revs up collagen production, leaving you with a younger looking, more radiant complexion
- You get better quality restorative sleep, giving your body a chance to repair and restore
Professional Supplement Center offers these and many other high quality supplements for stress relief and exercise support:
PGX® Daily by Bioclinic Naturals – This all natural blend of highly viscous fibers contributes to a healthy glucose metabolism by lowering the glycemic index of your meal, normalizing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity. The formula includes 1,200 mg of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) which help to increase metabolism and may help to improve blood glucose related disorders such as diabetes. Gluten and dairy free.
CLA by Ortho Molecular – Along with a healthy diet and exercise, Conjugated Linoleic Acid supports reducing body fat while increasing muscle tone. The natural action of CLA speeds up fat metabolism and helps the body metabolize existing fat deposits when combined with moderate exercise. Gluten, yeast and soy free.
CoQ10 100 mg by Integrative Therapeutics – CoQ10 supplies support for energy production, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, overall wellness and healthy aging. For those taking statin medications, this supplement can help to ward off CoQ10 deficiency. Gluten, dairy and yeast free.
Corvalen Ribose Chewable by Douglas Labs – These natural D-ribose chewables are clinically proven to help restore energy, support cardiovascular and metabolic functions and reduce muscle stiffness, soreness and fatigue. D-ribose, a natural pentose sugar, is especially helpful for sports and fitness activities, as it helps to reduce the loss of energy during high intensity exercise and accelerates energy and tissue recovery. Gluten, soy, dairy and yeast free.
Cortisol and Adrenal Function. https://www.adrenalfatigue.org/cortisol-adrenal-function
Why endorphins (and exercise) make you happy. http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/
Power Surge: The Hidden Benefits of Exercise. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/tips/power-surge-the-hidden-benefits-of-exercise/
More energy, less stress. http://www.stress.org.uk/Stress-and-Energy.aspx
Endorphins and exercise. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6091217
For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/for-depression-prescribing-exercise-before-medication/284587/