STRESSED? 10 Reasons Why You Want the Runner’s High

We all experience stress from time to time. Although we may experience the same type of stress (financial stress, stressful relationship issues, work stress, etc) we all respond to stress very differently (see my facebook poll below).

While we can’t always control the actual stress itself, we sure as heck can control how we respond to it – and THAT can make ALL the difference in the world!!

What causes stress?
I found this description on NaturalNews.com: “Exercise essentially burns away the chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress. At the same time, vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are morphine-like hormones that are responsible for the feeling of elation, or well being that distance runners get from running. Other chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are also released in the brain during exercise. Together, these give a feeling of safety and security that contributes to off-setting some of the “internal” causes of stress, such as uncertainty, pessimism and negative self-talk.” This chemical reaction from exercise is often what people refer to as the Runner’s High.

To be honest, when I am stressed, the LAST thing I want to do is exercise. I want to go home and hide. I want to sit on the couch and entertain my brain with mindless TV. I want to eat and drink the night away until I’m so tired I crash in bed, hopefully forgetting (and ignoring) all of my problems. If I’m in a really pathetic mood, I will draw a bath and be sure to sulk for a long period of time. I won’t put on make-up or leave the house to do much of anything. BUT after that response, I will even feel WORSE! Yet, if I suck it up and exercise, the stressful circumstance may not change, but my view of that stress, and the way I handle it, completely changes. Here’s why.

10 Reasons Why Exercise is the Best Stress-Reliever

  1. Exercising regularly can reduce stress, and increase productivity. Since most of us have more stress when we are the busiest, with a demanding schedule, it actually is beneficial to exercise during our busiest time – which is often times when we skip our workouts the most.
  2. Exercise is prescribed to help relieve nervous tension. Studies showed people had a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles after exercise. This also helps relieve painful muscle spasms in common areas like our neck, back and shoulders.
  3. Exercise relaxes you. One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Since most of us struggle to relax when we are stressed, exercise is a good replacement for Valume and other medications commonly used to fight anxiety and nervous tension.
  4. Exercise improves self-esteem. When you exercise, you are more confident to handle stress. Small stresses won’t bother you as much, and bigger stresses will seem more manageable because you feel more confident to attack them. Other stresses related to your appearance or relationships may even completely go away when you take away your own insecurities.
  5.  Intense exercise has a greater effect on reducing stress. A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that a relatively high-intensity exercise is superior in reducing stress and anxiety, especially in women – and even more in older women. (no excuses my menopause ladies!)
  6. The rhythmic running, outside or on the treadmill, can clear the mind. (you gotta love hearing that runners!!) In a world that constantly keeps the mind occupied, this is super helpful for troubleshooting problems and exploring new ideas. The Mayo Clinic calls exercise “Meditation in Motion“.
  7. Exercise has been proven to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety. Study after study continues to prove exercise is one of the best anti-depressants available.
  8. Exercise improves sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, which is often disrupted when one is going through a lot of stress. If you sleep better at night, you are more able, and ready, to bring on what the day throws your way.
  9. Exercise (which stresses our muscles and cardiovascular system) helps the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate better. The more sedentary we are, the less efficient our body is when responding to stress.
  10. People who exercise eat better. Since many people actually have additional stress due to weight gain and self-esteem issues, exercise helps improve our eating patterns, as well as improve our quality of food which can help us feel better and have more energy.

The way we respond to stress is habit. We will automatically try to turn to what we have taught our body to do when we experience stress – drinking, sleeping, eating, etc. If you want to change your first response, you have to change your stress-response. At first, it will be purposeful. You will have to force yourself to go to the gym, or go for a run, every day – especially after a bad day at work or a stressful event. Eventually it will become second nature.

When I asked my facebook peeps what their response to stress was, here were some of their honest answers. Just think how awesome we’d all feel if we all started to turn to exercise!

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on October 11, 2012, in PFIT TIPS, Stress & Depression and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This article is great! Thank you for sharing 🙂 I LOVE using running as a stress reliever! I always feel better afterwards 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Are You an Awkward Runner? 3 Tips to Improve Form « pFIT blog

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