Reduce Stress: Fit Fitness Into Your Life
Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is one of the best ways to reduce stress. This type of exercise can:
- Strengthen your heart and lungs
- Help you control your weight
- Improve physical appearance
- Enhance self-confidence and self-esteem
- Elevate your mood and help ward off depression
- Improve the quality of your sleep
- Reduce stress reactivity
- Improve your ability to concentrate
Aerobic exercise produces and sustains cardiovascular elevation for 15 to 30 minutes, three to four times a week. For optimal fitness and stress management, 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times per week is recommended. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, running, swimming, in-line skating, biking, and cross-country skiing.
Tips for Beginning an Exercise Program
If you're 35 or older, or have heart problems, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions, you should seek your healthcare provider's approval before beginning an exercise program.
Starting and sticking to a regular exercise program can be a challenge. Here are some things you can do to avoid becoming a fitness program dropout:
- Find out what works for you and make it fun. What would be the most enjoyable type of exercise for you? Do you enjoy competitive sports? Walking with a friend? In-line skating? Using exercise equipment? Do you have more fun exercising with a friend, a group, or by yourself? Do you like to listen to music while you exercise?
- If you haven't been exercising regularly, start slowly. Try 10 to 15 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week and increase from there.
- Plan for your workouts and make them a priority by scheduling them in your calendar.
- Consider finding a workout partner or role model who can help keep you motivated.
- If you miss a few days of exercise, don't quit! Just go back to your routine and eventually it will become a habit.
Making It Work
Perhaps it seems that you're too busy with work and family and don't have any time or opportunities to be active. With a little creativity, though, you can find ways to work activity into your day.
Wear comfortable clothes and keep a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes in your car or office. Create opportunities to walk by parking further from the office or by getting off the train or bus one stop earlier. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of using the phone or email, stroll over to see your co-worker in person. Use break times or part of your lunch hour to take a walk. If you go out to lunch, park several blocks away from the restaurant.
Before or After Work
Exercise is a great way to start off the day feeling energized, especially if you feel too tired to work out when you get home from work. Or try exercising after work to relieve the stress and tensions that can build up during the day. Family bonding and exercise come together when you take walks or play with your kids in the evening.
What do you do with your free time? Again, you can incorporate physical activity into your other social and household activities. Take up dancing. Take your family on a hike, play frisbee in the park, or go to the zoo. Schedule regular walks with your family on weekends and while you're doing errands. If possible, walk to your church, synagogue, or other place of worship.
Doing household chores is a great way to get moderate physical activity while tidying up. Scrub the bathtub, sweep the floor, wash the windows, and reorganize your closet. If you want some fresh air and sunshine but don't feel like sitting around, mow the grass, trim the bushes, work in your garden, or wash the car.
Whether at work or home, when you're feeling stressed, even a few minutes of exercise can provide some relief. Get up and take a walk to clear your head. Walk up and down the stairs. Get away from that tense or tedious situation. Taking a few breaks during hectic days can enhance your well-being.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
American Psychological Association. Available at: http://www.apa.org.
Last reviewed February 2008 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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