Exercise physically puts stress upon our bodies, but
psychologically, exercise is proven to lift our stress away.
For most people, exercise elevates mood. Repeated
studies with humans and animals have shown that regular workouts can increase
stress resistance, decrease anxiety, lessen symptoms of depression, and
generally leave people cheerful.
Yet what if someone sincerely dislikes exercise? This
is hardly uncommon. The thought of going to a musky gym to rub against machines
still beaded with other peoples’ sweat is far from enticing. Not to mention
exercising requires work—hard, tiring work.
Many of us seem to fall into two distinct categories:
those who love a vigorous, sweat-soaked workout and those who view it as a form
of torment. One reason for this may be because many sedentary people push their
limits when they start exercising. They jump right into vigorous exercise and
exceed their physical capacity for exertion, which can make them hate the
activity and want to stop.
However, if you understand your limits, it is almost
impossible to regret a workout.
Soreness and exhaustion may leave you in discomfort,
but few of us go for a run or attend a yoga class and wish we would have stayed
home when we are finished. Most of us wouldn’t climb a mountain, get to the
top, and say, “I should have just been content to stay where I was.” Whether
you love to exercise or would rather do anything but exercise, exercise is
shown to do your mood good.
With doctors, family and friends constantly pushing us
to exercise for the countless physiological benefits, can the stress of feeling
forced to exercise or the stress of fitting it in our overloaded schedules
reduce the otherwise sturdy emotional benefits of physical activity?
According to a study at the Center for Neuroscience at
the University of Colorado – Boulder, exercise can be helpful even if you are
not in the mood for it. In fact, you are likely to wind up feeling less
anxious, more relaxed and happier after exercising, even if you are not
enjoying the workout.
The study is a useful reminder that exercise is a
proven, inexpensive and non-pharmacological means of combating stress — even
the stress of feeling that you should be exercising.
For those who dread or fear athletics, here’s the good
news. Virtually any form of exercise, from jogging to stretching, can act as a
stress reliever. Even if you are flat out of shape, dedicating time each day to
exercise can leave you with more energy and feelings of well-being.
This is because exercise releases hormones called
endorphins, which are often classified as the happy hormones. The increase of
endorphins in your body leads to many positive emotions and helps combat the
negative effects of stress.
As we head into the end of the semester, put aside some
time to exercise. If the thought of going to a gym is intimidating, put on a
good pair of shoes and take a walk outside to reach that weekly recommendation
of 150 minutes of physical activity. During what is typically a stressful time
for students, a little movement will do wonders for your physical and mental