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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Can Proper Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, Low Stress and Exercise Really Affect Our Health and Lifelong Development?

I have Fibromyalgia (with acute tendonitis in my right arm, shoulder and neck); I am severely lactose intolerant and I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome; which causes some unpleasant digestive and elimination issues. Why do I share so much of my personal issues? To give background as to why I am constantly looking for ways to reduce pain, increase flexibility, calm my digestive issues, live a healthier life and increase my longevity. I want to live to 100 years old and I think it is possible!

Here are four questions to ponder:

  1. Can proper diet, nutrition, supplements, low stress levels and exercise make a big enough difference to our health and lifelong development to make all that effort worthwhile?
  2. Can simply what we put in our mouth and how much we move our body really affect our health and lifelong development?
  3. Is the effort we put into eating an all-natural, fortified and nutritious diet really worth the expected outcome?
  4. Will countless hours spent exercising for heart health and fat loss affect our development enough to prolong life and keep us healthy the way we expect them to?

We no longer define health as: “the absence of illness”…Health is now defined as: balance among physical, mental and social well-being: all 3!

An optimum state of health is referred to as WELLNESS (Taylor, pg. 3, 2012.)

If we make valiant attempts to balance our physical, mental and social well-being, can we be assured that we will not fall prey to illness? Of course not. But making our best efforts may prove worthwhile.

In 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in the year 1900 was the flu and pneumonia. The leading cause of death in the year 2006 was diseases of the heart. (Taylor, pg. 9, 2012.) Why the shift? Poor diet with low nutrition, high stress and lack of exercise are among causes for the shift.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the top risk factors of heart disease as:

  1. tobacco,
  2. high cholesterol,
  3. high blood pressure,
  4. physical inactivity,
  5. obesity,
  6. diabetes, and
  7. stress. (Taylor, pg. 44, 2012.)

Most of these risk factors are preventable! Perhaps diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure may be genetic but even then, measures can be taken to control them. What measures can we take to control them? We can take the following measures – wait for it………proper diet, nutrition, supplements, low stress and exercise. Surprise!

Just how important is proper diet, nutrition, supplements, low stress and exercise on our health and development?   Health is determined by genetic and environmental influences AND personal choices we make across our life span. (Sigelman and Rider, pg. 142, 2012.) What we eat, how much we physically challenge our bodies and how we let stress affect us determine our health and our lifelong development.

Do we start off with a predetermined potential of how healthy we could be based on our genetics? Sure. But what we do with that potential is completely up to the individual.  Our genetic potential can certainly help or hinder our health and lifelong physical development but the choices we make in our life can have just as much influence to help or hinder our health as the genetic makeup that was passed down to us from our parents.

Diet and nutrition – just how does it affect our health and lifelong development? A bad diet results in lower core strength, slower problem solving ability, slower muscle response time, and less alertness, just to name a few detriments to our health.

Some other harms to our health caused by a bad diet:

  • obesity,
  • hypertension,
  • high cholesterol,
  • heart disease,
  • diabetes,
  • stroke,
  • gout, and
  • cancer, just to name a few.

According to a National Center of Health Statistics 2003 survey, about 65.2 percent of American adults are overweight or obese as a result of poor nutrition. (Ajmera, 2011.)   Based on the obesity epidemic that we are facing right now, obviously many Americans are eating the wrong diet and way too much of it! Of course, genetics might do their part in helping people to become obese, but because we know of all the health risks that come with being obese, shouldn’t we, as a society, along with the individual, make better efforts to decrease our obese population?

Maintaining proper diet and nutrition is not necessarily a hard thing to do but it does take effort. Researching what foods give the biggest bang for the buck: high protein foods such as Chobani yogurt or no sugar added peanut butter, reading food labels (and rereading regularly because ingredients change), determining which foods are best for your specific body (low inflammatory foods are best for those with Fibromyalgia) and shopping different stores and even different sections of stores makes a big difference. Grocery stores usually put the worse food on the end caps where they are easily seen. The healthy food is sometimes separated into a special “health foods” section but can also be found mixed in throughout the store. Sometimes two products look almost identical, such as ketchup, but if you check the ingredients list, one will have high fructose corn syrup and one will not.

Simply eliminating things like bleached four and artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup,  hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives can boost your immune system, which in turn, can improve your overall health.   Unfortunately, societal influences often inadvertently (and sometimes on purpose) encourage poor eating habits rather than good ones (Sigelman and Rider, pg., 153, 2012.) Television and other advertising portray things like super sugary cereal and snacks, prepackaged high sodium foods and soda as food and drinks that are fun and for the “cool” people.  Here is a link to a typical sugary cereal commercial: Fruity Pebbles cereal commercial

Fortunately, health food stores like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes.com becoming much more popular and their prices are coming down as more people shop there. I love Trader Joes because every single item in their store has good ingredients and is usually cheaper than buying the same product in a grocery store, but the product in the grocery stores is more likely to have bad ingredients. (It is the only place around that I know of that has nitrate free turkey bacon, grass fed beef, soups in safe cans, yummy Trader Joe brand cereals and bread mixes.) Avoiding bad ingredients instantly makes your food more nutritious because your body can use all of the ingredients in the food optimally without trying to break down what it views as toxins.

Some things our bodies view as toxins are:

  • high fructose corn syrup,
  • hydrogenated oils,
  • preservatives,
  • artificial colors,
  • and artificial flavors: including artificial sweeteners (which the Center for Science In the Public’s Interest recommends that we AVOID.) (Jibrin, 2012).

Other toxins to limit or avoid are some of the most commonly used “licit” drugs: caffeine, nicotine and alcohol (Beidel, Bulik & Stanley, pgs. 322-325, 2012) and it goes without saying to avoid all illicit drugs. When our body has to spend a lot of time and effort breaking down toxins, it lowers our immune system, creates free radicals and makes us more sluggish and can even complicate our body’s elimination process (Your Immune System, Free Radicals and Antioxidants, 2011.) Good health starts in the colon, so we don’t want to impair that process!

Our farmland has been over cropped, much of our food is over processed and therefore less nutritious and our bodies are deficient of proper nutrients; suffice to say – we need supplements.  Something as simple as taking some multi-vitamins and perhaps a simple blood test with our yearly exam to determine what vitamins and nutrients we are lacking could do wonders for our health.

For instance, a deficiency in Vitamin D could help cause:

  • osteoporosis,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • high blood pressure;  and
  • cancer.

Having an adequate level of Vitamin D and perhaps a tad more:

  • aids in cell differentiation,
  • boosts immunity,
  • helps insulin levels and blood pressure regulation.

I have recently found out that Vitamin D plays a key role with the treatment of Fibromyalgia…more about in a future blog. (AlgaeCal.com, 2012)

Is stress really dangerous to your health and lifelong development? Coming soon – the answer to that question and more, in my next blog!

Have questions or want to discuss stress reduction, Fibromyalgia or any health issues, please leave me a comment. I would appreciate it!

M.

References

Ajmera, Ripa. (2011.) The Effects of Poor Nutrition on Your Health. LiveStrong.com. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/31172-effects-poor-nutrition-health/#ixzz1ssGQXwvT.

AlgaeCal.com. (2012.) Benefits of Vitamin D – Vitamin D3 Supplements. Retrieved from: http://www.algaecal.com/vitamin-d/vitamin-d-benefits.html.

Beidel, Deborah C., Bulik, Cynthia M., & Stanley, Melinda A. (2012). Abnormal Psychology, (2nd ed.) New Jersey: Pearson.

CDC.com.  (n.d.)  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Home Page. CDC.com.  Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/

Jibrin, Janis. (2012) Detox Your Diet! Self Magazine. New York, New York: 4Times Square.

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.

TraderJoes.com (2015.)  Trader Joes’s Home Page.  Retrieved from: http://www.traderjoes.com/

WholeFoods.com.  (2015.) Whole Food’s Home Page.  Retrieved from:  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/

YouTube.com. (2011.) Fruity Pebbles Commercial.   YouTube.com. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd1NV3YB_bc

Your Immune System, Free Radicals and Antioxidants. (2011.) Free Radicals, Antioxidants, & The Immune System. Retrieved from: http://immunedisorders.homestead.com/radicals.html.