According to Mental Health UK 12 million Britons visit their GP each year due to stress. There is a simple to solution to stress, exercise, but our modern lives seem to get in the way. Nowadays, we are lazier than previous generations, this is largely due to advanced technology; vehicles driving us everywhere, staring at computer screens, watching the television…well you get the picture. Exercising has numerous benefits and one that is particularly necessary for modern busy lives is the ability to combat stress and reduce the risk of depression by 30%.
Biologically: when the body is active it triggers the brain to release endorphins (‘happy hormones’). The surge of endorphins creates a sensation of euphoria and an enhancement of the immune system, which reduces stress. These euphoric endorphins include dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is believed to be of particular importance as researchers have found around half of the brain’s norepinephrine supply is produced in the area of the brain that connects emotional and stress responses (the locus coeruleus).
Physically: regular activity allows the body to deal with stress as it prompts the physiological systems (involved in the stress response) to interact with each other. Furthermore, the cardiovascular (heart) system communicates with the renal (kidneys) system, which then communicates with the muscular system. And these are all controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also interact with each other. The less we exercise, the less efficient our bodies are at internally communicating and responding to stress.
Being active means muscles are strengthened and stamina is increased. This means stress related aches and pains such as headaches, neck pain and back pain are reduced and tense muscles and tissues are relaxed. In fact just one session of exercise can provide relaxation for up to 2 hours after.
Everyone is affected by stress to varying degrees, so it is essential to develop a stress management system. Try to include exercise in your weekly routine to achieve peace of mind and a relaxed body, making life more manageable and enjoyable.