Stress can come from many sources in everyday life such as work overload, life transitions, dysfunctional relationships, family issues, unrealistic expectations, financial worries or health problems. Too much stress can produce negative reactions that may often result in physical symptoms such as tight muscles. But, there’s a proven way to reduce that tightness and help you relax – physical activity.
According to the National Institutes of Health, stress response is caused by hormones. Hormones are chemicals produced by the glands, are carried through the bloodstream, and affect the activities of our body organs. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are located in the brain while the adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys. Together they control hormones that help the body cope with change or a stressful situation.
When faced with a stressful event, our brain signals for the release of stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These chemicals increase heart rate and breathing which provide a burst of energy to fight or flee. The release of these hormones can also result in a wide range of other physical reactions.
Countering your body’s natural stress response is possible through exercise. Physical exercise helps to bump up the production of our brain’s feel-good neuro-transmitters called endorphins. Endorphins can be found in the pituitary gland and in other parts of our brain and body. By reducing the production of stress hormones and increasing the production of endorphins, exercise can play an important role in managing stress.
Concentrating on body movements during physical activities will often result in a shift in focus from daily dilemmas and irritations to feelings of well-being and self confidence. Regular exercise improves your mood and diminishes the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.
There are two types of physical activity that can help improve overall health, aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise involves a continuous and intensive exercise of the heart and lungs that help strengthen the heart and cardiovascular respiratory system, while anaerobic focuses on increasing strength and endurance of specific muscles. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, physical activity is effective as a counseling aid to help reduce stress and other mental health problems. Not only will you feel better, but you can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease; depression; diabetes; high blood pressure and obesity.
How can we better navigate stress in our lives? Let’s start by adding to or changing our daily exercise routines. Consider involving your shipmates and family members. Exercise will help you improve your performance and attitude both on and off the job.
About the Blogger:
Lisa Domengeaux-Marrero is Fitness Specialist with the Navy’s Physical Readiness Program. Lisa holds a Masters in Exercise Science and Health Promotions, and a certification through National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a Corrective Exercise Specialist. Lisa runs with the Memphis Runner Track Club and has ran 11 marathons and 12 half marathons.