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Bust stress with physical activity

Use exercise to reduce stress

Regular exercise increases your overall health and sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step. But did you know it also has some direct stress-busting benefits?

  • Physical activity pumps up your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, or endorphins.
  • It’s meditation in motion, helping clear your mind as you practice “mindfulness,” focusing on the movements of your body or the music playing in your headphones instead of those nagging worries.
  • It lessens the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety by stimulating production of your body’s own antidepressants: serotonin and dopamine.
  • It helps you have a better night’s sleep, because after exertion, your whole body will be ready to relax.
Physical activity is far more than “working out at the gym.” It also can be any vigorous activity that’s part of your everyday life: gardening, walking the dog, pushing the children on a swing at the park, biking through the neighborhood, and even house work. 

Just be sure to set aside at about 20-25 minutes each day – or about 150 minutes each week – for whatever activity you enjoy.

Don’t overdo it!

While short bursts of activity may be painless, you may suffer the next day if your activity is too intense. So, before you weed your garden, mop the floor or vigorously run and play with the kids, do a few stretches to loosen up your joints.

How to stretch

A safe stretch should be gentle and relaxing. Move slowly until you feel the muscle stretch just a bit. Hold the stretch steady and do not bounce. Relax and repeat each stretch three to five times while breathing slowly and naturally. Don’t push yourself.

Never stretch if you have pain before you begin. If stretching causes pain, STOP! Listen to your body.

Change pace

During your physical activity, switch up your routine every five minutes or so. If you’re crouching on the ground as you weed, stand up and stretch. If you’re reaching up to dust or trim branches, bend over and let your arms relax and dangle.

If you get a muscle cramp during physical activity, stop and repeatedly stretch the affected muscle then massage it until the pain goes away. If the pain persists, apply ice for a few minutes, then repeat the stretching and massage.

Drink lots of water

Water helps lubricates joints and connective tissue so they are less likely to become stiff with use. By drinking plenty of water, you also help prevent cramps caused by dehydration, and minimize muscle soreness, caused by an accumulation of lactic acid during physical activity.
About Dana S Rose RN

I am the nurse navigator for the Targeted Proactive Back and Body Program for Via Christi’s Accountable Care Organization, Healthier You. I have been a nurse since 1985 — serving most of that time in Behavioral Health — and have a master’s degrees in Nursing Education and in Theological Studies. My passion in life is to help others by teaching them to care for themselves. My other passion is my family — my wonderful husband and three children.