We all know exercise is good for us. But did you know that exercising can actually improve your self-esteem and help you with stress management?
We talk a lot about self-esteem in our children, but what about our own? Self-esteem, or put another way, simply how you feel about yourself, can play a major role in your health and quality of life. If you feel good about yourself, you’re more likely to live a healthier lifestyle, to remain active, to interact socially, and to participate in community activities. All this works in a kind of circular way to keep you healthier. A study was done in overweight women who participated in either a stretching and toning exercise program or a brisk walking exercise program for six months. Both programs enhanced their self-esteem, although the stretching-toning group showed greater improvement. All the women, however, felt better about their body images and strength. The message? You don’t have to up your heart rate to achieve a better feeling via exercise.
Exercise can also be used to manage stress. There is a reason when people are told to take a walk when they need to “let off steam”. All that steam – or stress- triggers a chemical cascade designed to ready you to run. Your heart beats faster and harder, your lungs take in more oxygen, your liver releases glucose to provide energy for muscles, and your immune system revs up in preparation for injury.
If all you do is sit there, however, all that physiological energy has nowhere to go. Given the kind of chronic stress most of us experience, this constant ready-for-flight-with-nowhere-to-go response damages key body systems over time. It suppresses the immune system; contributes to bone loss, muscle weakness, and atherosclerosis; and increases insulin levels (you need more insulin to get all that glucose into cells), leading to higher levels of dangerous abdominal fat.
The solution? Exercise!
Just a 20 minutes jog or stair-climbing stint does ore to soothe stress induced anxiety than simply sitting still in a quiet room for 20 minutes. Not only does physical activity reduce anxiety, but being physically fit acts as a buffer against the damaging effects of stress, such as high blood pressure. We’re not talking a lifetime of physical activity either, just six months. In fact, such activities can do more to reduce stress-related high blood pressure than changing your diet.
Maybe jogging or stair-climbing isn’t for you? Here are seven different kinds of exercise that can heighten energy and provide stress relief:
The benefits of aerobic exercise – like running, dancing, spinning, and in-line roller-skating – include an increased heart rate When your heart rate is accelerated, your body releases endorphins, natural opiates that make you feel good with no side effects.
Yoga is an excellent stress-relief exercise. It involves a series of moving and stationary poses, or postures, combined with deep breathing. A mind-body exercise, yoga can strengthen your body’s natural relaxation response and bring you into a health balance.
Pilates is a series of controlled movements and mat exercises designed to build your strength, flexibility, and endurance – all of which make practicing Pilates, an anaerobic (as opposed to aerobic) exercise, a great stress reliever.
Practicing Martial Arts is a effective way to release energy, frustration, and tension. There are many kinds to choose from: Krav Maga, karate, Judo, Tae kwon do and more.
Kickboxing is a powerful means of reducing stress. It involves controlled punching and kicking movements carried out with discipline. It is a great way to work out frustration – having an outlet to release energy and anger, therefore relieving stress.
Team sports include things like tennis, football, basketball, soccer and many more to choose from. It can be as easy and rounding up some friends or family for a friendly game. You get a double dose of stress relief from participating in team sports. Not only are you having fun with loved ones, but you’re also working up a sweat and releasing endorphins.
Long-distance running, biking, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities provide a change of scenery and a dose of fresh air, both of which can help clear your mind.
As you can see, you have many activities you can choose from that will all aid you in stress relief as well as your self-esteem. It is as easy and choosing which one is best for you, and pick a day this week to do it. The best time to plan is right now!
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