By Lisa Abramson, Ochsner | Special to the New Orleans Saints
An excellent reason for exercising (besides physical fitness) is to reduce stress. In today's world it does not take long to multiply little daily stressors into larger insurmountable ones. A regular exercise routine will help lessen the stress you carry and help you coast through your day with a cushion of ease. The secret to decreasing your stress is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Almost any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress level.
Stress is not just a mental or emotional issue. It can become a physical issue too. If you are chronically tense, you are setting yourself up for long-term conditions such as depression, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, everyday nagging issues are more prevalent; these include back pain, insomnia, indigestion, anxiety and even anger.
Research shows that any aerobic activity will reduce your stress. Consider taking a spin class or get on a recumbent bicycle, go for a brisk walk, or run, or take a dip in the pool and pool walk or swim some laps. Take a line dancing or Zumba class and make it a fun workout. Whatever you find, discover what is fun and playful for you to do; this will make you want to continue doing it and even master it! Even gardening or dancing will help reduce anxiety and depression.
Just getting up and moving around is a powerful way to reduce stress. Our muscles get moving, encouraging blood flow and helps us feel more comfortable with ourselves. Exercise also gets us breathing deeper, which triggers the body's relaxation response. In addition, it is hard to ignore the positive feelings you have when you are exerting yourself; a natural way to boost your confidence!
Gardening is a low-impact workout. Weeding alone can burn 200 calories (about 16 minutes of running) an hour, and more strenuous activities, such as hauling bags of dirt or raking, can shed up to 600 calories (about 48 minutes of running) an hour. A bonus is your connection with the earth, which can ground you and refresh your spirit.
Dancing has many physical, mental and even emotional benefits. It is a great workout that improves grace and agility as it raises your heart rate. And researchers have found that people who dance twice a week have less risk of developing dementia, perhaps because learning new steps challenges your brain too. Dancing also creates a sense of community and connection to other people, which lowers stress levels and boosts happiness.
Walking is easy to do. Walking frequently can reduce the incidence of many of the stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. People with regular walking regimens also report stress reduction and a self-confidence in taking an active role in their well-being. Walking releases tension from your major muscle groups, deepens your breathing and calms the nervous system. If you are just getting started on walking for exercise, aim for two 10-minute walks a week. After two or three weeks, gradually increase the frequency and duration of your walks. Five or six 30-minute walks a week are usually recommended to maintain health and stress management.
Doing a weight-machine or free-weight workout in the gym will also provide stress-busting benefits. Breathing hard, exerting the muscles, and aiming for three sets of 10 –12 repetitions will go a long way to changing your attitude. I cannot tell you how many times I came into the gym for a workout in a less than stellar mood and came out of the gym at the end of my workout with a smile on my face and a can-do-anything attitude.
For the sake of your mind and body, make sure you include a regular workout routine every week. The benefits are numerous and will contribute to your quality of life and longevity. More action, less stress!
Obviously, the best motivation every Monday is a Saints win on Sunday but the NFL season only lasts so long. Motivation Monday will be a year-round feature on NewOrleansSaints.com as the Saints and Ochsner recognize we all have been through a lot the past two years and we want to do our part to improve the health and wellness of our Saints family. If you have any ideas or questions for our experts we want to hear them. You can email us atSaintsLiveWell@saints.nfl.com.