Stress- the inevitable part of every person’s life regardless of whether you are a student cramming information for your examinations or a working adult juggling work and family life. Asking any stressed up person to make time for exercise may seem like an unadvisable thing to do but contrary to popular belief, the benefits it brings outweighs the costs involved!
Modern life is full of deadlines and demands. Stress is becoming so commonplace that it has started to become a way of life. Stress isn’t always a bad thing- if it is within your comfort zone, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate to do your best. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can damage your health, relationships and quality of life.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any demand or threat. When under threat, your nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouses the body for emergency action. This “fight or flight” stress respond leads to several physical changes- increased heart and breath rate, heightened sense levels- increases your strength and stamina, reaction time and enhances your focus. However, when you repeatedly experience this fight or flight stress response in your daily life, it can suppress your immune system and raise your blood pressure in addition to leaving you vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional problems. What this means to you as a student or a working adult is that you are more prone to not only getting physically sick but also mentally and emotionally- which we all know is extremely detrimental to our health, negatively affecting our productivity.
You have probably already heard a lot about how exercise is good for you and how important it is to be physically fit. This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are still unconvinced, here are some of the many benefits that exercise can bring to you:
1. Memory boost
The part of the brain that strongly responds to being physically fit is the hippocampus. This is where the core of the brain’s learning and memory system is found. Experiments have found that this brain structure grows as people get fitter- this explains the memory-boosting effects of exercise. German researchers have also showed that walking or cycling during learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick to the brain. So exercise while you revise, but don’t push too hard as vigorous workouts can raise your stress levels, having an adverse impact instead.
2. Improve concentration
Scientific evidences from both the Netherlands and US showed that daily exercises helped schoolchildren to concentrate better by ignoring distractions and improve their ability to hold and manipulate information in their minds.
3. Improve mental health
Believe it or not- runner’s high is real. This is the feeling of euphoria that most people feel after continuous exercise, which is associated with feelings of contentment and elation.
Stress and Exercise
Needless to say, regular exercise can help you to reduce stress. The good news is, you don’t have to be an athlete or in shape to reap the benefits of exercise. Virtually any form of exercise- cardio, aerobics and even yoga can act as stress relievers. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. The additional chunk of exercise-induced endorphins is linked to the runner’s high I mentioned earlier. These feelings of euphoria act as a stress reliever, removing anxiety. This in turn helps you to work more productively and reduces the number of errors in your work.
If exercise still seems intimidating, don’t despair- even just a few minutes of exercise is better than none at all. Start out with a 5 or 10 minute session everyday and slowly increase your time. The key is to be able to commit to moderate physical activity, slowly turning exercise into a habit. There are many different activities you can explore to get your daily exercise too- from running to tennis to simply just climbing the stairs- the choice is all yours. Start exercising today and soon you will find that your stress levels have gone down!