Stress is difficult to define. It may come from one or many sources. It may be brief, or last a long time. It may be one thing, or a combination of many things. Work, family life, and even money can make you feel anxious, tired (fatigue), or even depressed.
Stress can cause physical changes as well. You may notice a change in sleep patterns or your appetite. It can cause stomach distress and headaches. Over time it can even contribute to serious health issues like heart disease.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It is a fast way to set you on the right track to better overall health.
Exercise is YOU time. It is an opportunity to give your mind a break and help your body relax. Using physical activity to combat stress has been shown to:
The best thing about physical activity is that you can start at any age, in any condition, and see positive results.
It's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Getting good advice from the start is the place to start. Once that is done, the best thing is to find something you like doing. Start slowly and build up. You want to create a lifelong habit, not dropout after the first few weeks because of injuries or misery.
Remember, the trick is to reduce stress, not create more, so take your time and have fun! Here are some tips to start the process:
Remember that exercise does not have to be structured. Any physical activity like dancing to music, a stroll at lunch, or playing with your kids can make you feel better. Moderate exercise for as little as 5 minutes can better your mood.
Now you're moving. How can you keep the momentum going? Daily life gets in the way of exercise. Time is always hard to come by, so find opportunities where you can. Here are some tips for sneaking in some extra exercise time:
Physical activity is often thought of as something you'll get to when you "have time". Instead, think of it as something you want to do. Find activties you enjoy. You may soon find that physical activity is a regular treat in your hectic day.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Stress tip sheet. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/10/stress-tips.aspx. Accessed November 8, 2012.
Exercise: How to Get Started. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/physical/basics/015.html. Updated December 2009. Accessed November 8, 2012.
Exercise Important in Shrinking Your Stress. American College of Sports Medicine website. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/exercise-important-in-shrinking-your-stress. Accessed November 8, 2012.
Mind/Body Health: Stress. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx. Accessed November 8, 2012.
Stress: How to Cope Better with Life's Challenges. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/emotional-wellbeing/mental-health/stress-how-to-cope-better-with-lifes-challenges.html. Accessed November 8, 2012.
The Exercise Effect. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx. Updated December 2011. Accessed November 16, 2012.
The Exercise Habit. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/exercise-fitness/exercise-basics/the-exercise-habit.html. Updated December December 2010. Accessed November 19, 2012.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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