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Move More to Stress Less

by Megan Sherman, Health and Wellness Educator

Have you ever noticed that your habits change based on your stress levels? In some cases, the habits we adopt when stressed may not be the healthiest. Emotional eating, alcohol usage, binge watching television and lack of sleep may be some of the more common unhealthy habits we turn to when stressed.  However, stress can also provide us with an opportunity to start healthy habits and ones that can in return, help us feel less anxious and more relaxed.

We all know that physical activity can help improve our physical fitness and help fight disease, but we often forget that it can help our mental fitness as well.

  • Exercise can relax you—One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Some people call this “runner’s high” but you don’t you don’t have to be a runner to experience the benefits. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins which in return results in increased relaxation and better sleep habits.
  • Exercise can help you feel less anxious—Exercise is being prescribed in clinical settings to help treat nervous tension. Following a session of exercise, clinicians have measured a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles. People are often less jittery and hyperactive after an exercise session.
  • Exercise can make you feel better about yourself—Think about those times when you’ve been physically active. Haven’t you felt better about yourself? Positive self-esteem not only impacts your happiness level but can empower you to tackle your next challenge with confidence.
  • Exercise can make you eat better—People who exercise regularly tend to eat more nutritious food. And it’s no secret that good nutrition helps your body manage stress better.

So how much activity is enough? For overall health, experts recommend striving for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (or a combination of both), every week. Most of all, any amount of exercise or physical activity is better than none. Start with 20 minutes – or even, 10, 5 or 3. Just get started!

Need some help on getting started? The American Heart Association has several live and pre-recorded workouts to help you move more.