Q: I feel stressed all the time. How can exercise help relieve some of the stress?
A: We've all experienced it — those overworked, under pressure, wound up, pulling-out-our-hair moments in life. Stress is a natural response that helps the body go into fight or flight mode, but too much stress over a long period of time can lead to poor physical and mental health. The bad news is we can't always avoid it; the good news is we can overcome it. Enter the healing and energizing power of exercise. Physical activity works to combat stress because it gets your endorphins going, aids in controlling the stress hormone cortisol and helps you sleep better.
Daily worries can bring on a mental fog. Exercise naturally helps dissipate this by promoting norepinephrine production, which lifts our moods and improves our cognitive function. A study published in Aging Cell this year even showed that lifetime exercise promotes a healthy immune system. This is especially important to those of us who stress easily, as stress weakens the immune system. As strength and endurance improve, so does self-confidence.
It doesn't really matter what exercise you do as long as you're getting your heart rate up. Talk with your physician about what types of exercise might be most beneficial for you.
— Dr. Jacqueline Gentry, CHI Memorial Primary Care Associates, Hamilton Place; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society