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Exercise to Beat Stress

Researchers and medical experts have been saying it for years: if you want to lower stress, regular exercise is your best bet. It's been shown to relax both the body and the mind, improve the function of the cardiovascular system, burn fat, bring more oxygen into the lungs, and much more, all while reducing the chance of many types of disease. You'd think that everyone would be working out regularly, but if you look at the levels of obesity in our society, it's obvious that there's a disconnect somewhere.

When the body is stressed, chemical reactions connected with what is called the 'fight or flight' response occur, such as the release of adrenaline. Back in Neanderthal times, if we were involved in a stressful situation, such as being attacked by a wooly mastodon, we were able to either run away or fight back (fight or flight) immediately, thus erasing the accumulated substances that had built up in our system to prepare us for the effort. In our current society, the cause of our stress is usually not such an immediate physical danger, but our body still reacts to the perceived threat. This buildup of chemicals can contribute to emotional and physical problems.

Exercise can also help relieve stress by providing a physical outlet for negative emotions such as hostility, anger, worry, frustration, and depression. You can help to dispel these feelings by taking it out on a punching bag, whacking a tennis ball, running, or lifting weights. Regular exercise provides the opportunity to balance out the chemicals created by the fight or flight response and return to a more balanced state. Exercise can also improve one's self image and cause them to have more energy, while your self-esteem may also be improved by the feeling of achievement that exercise provides.

You probably already know many of the benefits of exercise, but are you doing anything with that knowledge? Begin by making a decision, start slowly, then gradually work up to more and longer workout sessions. All the knowledge in the world is useless without action. In the immortal words of Nike (the company, not the Greek goddess) - Just Do It!

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