By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
While most people know that exercise is a great thing for our bodies, many people are unaware that exercise is also very beneficial to the mind as well. Regular exercise has been shown to deliver an emotional and mental boost along with enhancing self-esteem and brain activity.
When people are physically active, their bodies release natural painkillers and stress reducers called endorphins. Endorphins help to lower levels of anxiety and depression and create a sense of well-being called an exercise "high."
Duke University studies have found that intense exercise is effective in reducing feelings of depression, tension, anger and confusion. Other studies have shown that even moderate exercise can improve a person's outlook on life and make that person feel less anxious. Anything from a short walk to jumping jacks to a short bike ride through the neighborhood will leave one feeling better both physically and emotionally.
Stress releases many different chemicals and hormones that can do a tremendous amount of damage to the body. These chemicals can raise blood pressure, weaken the body's immunity to colds and other illnesses, impair a person's memory, increase fat cell storage and lead to depression. Regular exercise has been found to combat these negative chemicals and hormones by releasing the body's own natural beneficial chemicals.
Canadian researchers discovered that levels of depression in people were significantly less after they exercised anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour three times a week for five weeks. In some cases the benefits lasted for up to a year. In a study in Australia that compared people who practiced progressive relaxation to people who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, the exercise group had lower blood pressure and responded better to acute stress.
Other research has shown the mental and emotional benefits of a little exercise. One study showed that with as little as 30 minutes on a treadmill, several subjects scored 25 percent lower on tests that measure anxiety and demonstrated positive changes in brain activity.
The way that someone feels can have a great affect on the way that person looks. Distress and doubt can cause people to hunch their bodies in an effort of self-protection. In turn this causes their spine to become compressed and their breathing to become shallower. They then limit themselves to small movements, which leads to muscle and joint stiffness and weakness. Not only does that person appear to be sagging physically, their spirits begin to sag and their self-esteem goes straight to the floor.
Many times, just starting a new exercise program can help to raise the level of self-esteem. Their confidence grows naturally as they progress through the program and continue to make physical gains. People need to make sure to choose activities that stretch and strengthen, as they will help them to stand taller, feel better about themselves and face the world with a more positive outlook.
Take time for yourself
People also need to include leisure activities in their programs to give their minds release from all of their everyday problems. Meditation, a hobby and exercise can all give a person's mind the needed time away from everyday schedules, thoughts, worries and responsibilities. When they return to their regular life activities, they should feel refreshed and more able to take on the troubles that may be in their path.
Regular weight training can also help a person with the quality and duration of sleep. Getting a good night's sleep will result in feeling less fatigued and better able to function in daily life.
If people begin to feel the pressure of stress in everyday life, they need to keep this in mind: All it takes is just a small amount of exercise and they can be on their way to feeling better. A brisk walk, a short jog or even some simple stretches can help to relieve stress and improve a person's outlook on life. Regular physical exercise releases many beneficial chemicals into the body that can help to keep someone not only physically fit but also mentally sharp and emotionally positive. The trick for each individual is to find an activity that she or he will enjoy doing and to stick with it long enough for the results to show. In other words, don't give up too soon. This will provide a dose of good health every day and help the person stay fit and happy for many years to come.
For more information, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.