Stress doesn’t just affect your thoughts, feelings and behavior — it affects your body, too:
- Stress can increase your blood pressure and depress your immune system.
- It can cause multiple thyroid problems.
- According to the Cleveland Clinic*, stress is linked to six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
It’s no wonder we’re constantly looking for ways to combat stress – from relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises, to meditation, muscle relaxation and mental imagery. Yet one of the best, and easiest, stress-busters is physical exercise.
Exercise — in any form — can act as a stress reliever. Regular exercise improves your overall health and sense of well-being. Physical exertion also boosts secretion of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that trigger a feel good response. You’ve probably heard it referred to as the runner’s high, though you don’t have to go running to achieve it. All forms of exercise have this effect, even yoga and walking.
Not quite in the mood to lace up your sneakers? How about a pair of garden gloves? Gardening is peaceful, solitary and good for the soul. And believe it or not, it’s also a great way to work your major muscle groups, such as your abs, back and glutes. With all that bending, squatting, pulling and pushing, you could burn as much as 184 calories in just half an hour!
There are thousands of ways to get moving — flag football, basketball, Frisbee golf, trampoline parks, mud runs, water aerobics, swimming and other water sports, corn hole and horseshoes, to name a few. Choose something you find enjoyable. Physical activity also helps you unwind and connect with family or friends in a fun, social setting. And that reduces stress, too.
Regular physical activity also:
- Improves your strength and endurance
- Can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep
- Delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues
- Helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently
The bottom line on any physical activity — it’s a great way to feel better, boost your health and have fun. Let’s leave the stress behind.
Feeling stressed? Many of our members have access to programs through their benefit plans that can help. Log into My Benefits Manager to see what’s available to you.
*Cleveland Clinic is a separate organization that offers health information that PAI members may find helpful.