Exercise can help you manage holiday stress

This time of year brings food, gifts, relatives and stress. Manage stress by taking a timeout to ignite feel-good neurotransmitters.

Woman walking down a dirt path surrounded by trees.

This time of year brings food, gifts, relatives and stress. Manage your stress by taking a timeout with some physical activity.

Stress is a part of life, and with the holidays in full gear, some of us are probably feeling more stressed than usual. According to a recent survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes moderately with their lives. Although it’s impossible to totally eliminate stress, we can learn to manage it, and physical activity is a health way to maintain mental fitness.

How does exercise help relieve stress? The Mayo Clinic provides the following explanations:

  • Physical activity increases the brain’s endorphins, which are like feel-good neurotransmitters. Those who have experienced a surge of energy or “runners high” after exercising, understand this feeling.
  • Exercise is like meditation in motion because it allows a person time to concentrate on their body’s movement and focus on a single task. Results often include having more energy and optimism.
  • Regular exercise can improve your mood, increase self-confidence and lower symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. It also helps improve sleep which can be disrupted by stress.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you check with a health professional if you have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease before starting an exercise regimen to avoid injury or discomfort. It’s also important to talk to a doctor if the stress in your life is causing unusual feelings of depression, anxiety or it’s affecting your sleep. Visit MSU Extension’s Physical Activity website for more information about programs and resources that focus on the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyle choices.

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