Manage Stress with Exercise

Stress is usually referred to in a negative light, although it is not always a negative. Exercise training to improve health or performance, for example, is a positive stress that facilitates positive changes. But work, commuting, family, finances, politics and health concerns can all impart negative strain. Over time, chronic negative stress is likely to damage physical and mental health. Eliminating these stressors is practically impossible, but managing them is not. Developing a stress management strategy is essential to your long term health and happiness, and exercise should play a significant role.

Find the Time

In the case of a major life event, exercise may be helpful, but turning to a mental health expert is the best option. For everyday stress management, exercise is one of the best tools available. Perhaps the most common obstacle to reaping its widespread benefits is finding time to fit it in. Busy schedules are notorious for pushing aside exercise in favor of…just about everything else!

If you find yourself doing this, try starting with a small, manageable daily goal. I suggest something as small as 5 minutes of some physical activity every day. It could be a 5 minute walk, a couple of strength training exercises, or a couple of minutes of foam rolling and stretching. Start small and get yourself in the habit of doing something most days, if not everyday. This is fundamental to an ongoing plan for keeping your stress in check.

Bigger Dose, Better Results

Once you have made your daily activity into a routine, start thinking about increasing your activity to have a greater positive effect. Managing stress with exercise follows the same guidelines for improving health and fitness. For example, 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise 5 days per week. If you find that to be challenging, break it up into 10 minute segments. A short walk can often be just the thing needed to clear your head and feel better after a stressful event.

Also remember that not every workout needs to be “perfect.” When time is scarce, it’s better to do a compact workout rather than skipping it.

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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