Reducing stress and increasing exercise: does it make a difference?

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Is stress dangerous to your health and lifelong development? Absolutely! Research has now found that the mind-body relationship is an inextricable influence on health. (Taylor, pg. 4, 2012.) One cannot be separated from the other, so we cannot treat only one part, we must treat both. Mental stress increases the risk of ill health and affects the course of somatic and mental disorders.

Stress can also help to cause the following problems:

  • Myocardial infarction (Heart Attack);
  • High blood pressure:
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders;
  • Asthma; and
  • Migraines (Gregory, pgs. 749-750, 1987.)

Simply put, if we reduce stress, we reduce the chances of these diseases/issues and we help to put our bodies back into optimum health and wellness.  Per a recommendation from a fellow classmate, Salika Fazenbaker, here is a health information website that discusses various health issues such as conditions that stress helps to cause. Medlineplus.gov

This area of study, the mind-body relationship, has become more and more mainstream with careers in the area of working with the mind-body connection becoming more popular. Here is a link to a discussion about the mind/body relationship. Mind/body relationship  As I mentioned above, the mind-body connection cannot be refuted anymore! I am even considering a career in Health Psychology! I am most interested in the BioPsychoSocial Model which suggests that we must consider our bodies/minds biologically, psychologically and socially. This method of improving health encompasses a more thorough model than just treating a biological or a mental issue.

I had a panic attack a few years ago. I was stressed about life and got into an argument with my husband about parenting our son. We both had very strong opinions about being correct in our beliefs. Suddenly, I got very dizzy, my chest felt tight and then I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. I had to sit down and make a decision to control my breath and stop the panic attack. I decided right then and there to never have another panic attack and I have since talked myself out of a real panic attack several times. I also have used an easy stress reduction technique that takes just a few minutes and works to reduce my stress levels – every time! Click here to see my Stress Reduction Video on YouTube.

Exercise: evidently, the majority of the American public is not exercising at all, not exercising enough or not exercising efficiently. A major cause for obesity in America is lack of exercise. (Hibma, 2012.)   I believe this is the reason why more people need to own a dog. Take your dog and go for a walk! A 30 minute brisk walk on most days is all it takes to reap many of the health benefits of exercise; 3 days per week at 20 minutes of vigorous activity equals the same benefits. By participating regularly in an exercise program you can improve your mood and increase feelings of well-being and not just necessarily in the short term, in the long term, too. (Taylor, pg. 79, 2012.)

Exercise also provides the following benefits:

  • Exercise increases health, wellness and mood;
  • It has actually been used to treat depression and is the number one treatment for Fibromyalgia (after pharmaceuticals);
  • Exercise is an effective way to manage stress and boost the immune system (Taylor, pg. 80, 2012.);  Manage Stress with Exercise, and
  • The endorphin release caused by exercise is loved by all people that exercise…like me!

Of course, many people say that lack of time and other stressors undermine intentions to exercise but the huge health benefits of exercise call to us and remind us why we should be exercising. (Taylor, pg. 81, 2012.)   For slightly hyper people like me, I need to exercise as much as I need water. If I miss a day or two of physical activity, I start getting nervous tension – what I call the “heebie jeebies” where my body starts screaming for movement. Exercise (or some type of physical movement, such as dancing around the kitchen with my 8 year old son) is a part of my day, every day and if everyone made physical activity a part of their day, we may not have an obesity epidemic and all that goes along with it.

Researchers have found evidence of increased blood volume in a region of the hippocampus (in our brain) after exercise that suggests the brain is capable of neurogenesis; which means that by exercising we can actually generate new neurons in our brain. (Sigelman and Rider, pgs. 139-140, 2012.) I find the fact that exercise can help build our brain, by creating new neurons, amazing!  Further, physical activity may actually enhance cognitive and psychological functioning. What fantastic reasons to exercise! (Sigelman and Rider, pg. 154, 2012.)

Other reasons to exercise:

  • People who exercise generally weigh less and have slimmer waists than those who don’t; (Sigelman and Rider, pg. 168, 2012.)
  • Exercise has shown its benefits to both young and old;
  • Exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular and respiratory functioning, slow bone loss and strengthen muscles; and
  • Exercise has been associated with a lower incidence of depression in older adults.   (Sigelman and Rider, pg. 167, 2012.)

As proven by the stats above, efforts to reduce stress and exercise have legitimate benefits that make the effort worthwhile.  In my next blog I will discuss my personal plight with Fibromyalgia and how I manage to live an almost pain-free life. Stay tuned – you won’t want to miss it!

Have questions or want to discuss stress reduction, the mind/body connection or anything health related, please leave me a comment!

M.

References

Gregory, Richard L. (1987) The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Hibma, Taylor. (2012.) eHow.com. 5 Causes of Obesity in America. Retrieved from: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5558417_causes-obesity-america.html

Medlineplus.gov. (2015.) Medline Plus: Trusted Health Information for You. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

Shapiro, Ed and Deb. (2012.) Your Body and Mind Relationship, Revealed. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ed-and-deb-shapiro/mind-body-relationship_b_1850211.html

Sigelman, Carol K. and Rider, Elizabeth A. (2012.) Life Span: Human Development, (7th ed.) Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

Taylor, Shelley E. (2012.) Health Psychology, (8th Ed.) Los Angeles, California: McGraw Hill.

MayoClinic.org. (2015.) Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress. MayoClinic.org. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

WebMd. (2015.) Understanding Heart Attack: The Basics. WebMD.com. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/understanding-heart-attack-basics

Wisegeek.com. (2015.) What is the BioPsychoSocial Model? Wisegeek.com. Retrieved from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-biopsychosocial-model.htm#didyouknowout

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One thought on “Reducing stress and increasing exercise: does it make a difference?

  1. salikafazenbaker says:

    Hi Mellissa, what a positive blog and I found it very motivating. I know that I am one of those millions of Americans who don’t get enough exercise. I think putting the references at the end of the post is a great way to show credibility and that you’ve done the research and know what you’re talking about. I think you have a lot of great information and breaking things down into bullet points really help. I wonder if you might include more links in those bullets. For example at the top of the blog you have a list of conditions that stress contributes to. It may be a good idea to include a link to articles on websites that explain those conditions, such as http://www.MedlinePlus.gov or http://www.mayoclinic.org. I use these websites at work all the time. I look forward to reading your next post.

    Like

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