Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sweat It Out

It seems as if everywhere we look these days, news of gloom and doom surrounds us. As the stock market continues to display volatility, housing prices go down, and the "experts" debate various bailout packages, our stress levels go up, creating the perfect storm for our physical, emotional and mental health. Add in the stress of the holiday season, and you've got a recipe for disaster. But there is good news to be found!

Did you know that the most effective stress-buster around is also all-natural, easy to find and very often free? It's true - and of course I'm talking about exercise. In addition to keeping your body firm and healthy, and helping you manage your weight, regular exercise is proven to foster an inner peace that will keep your stress level in check and counteract the damage it can do. Let's take a look at why exercise is more important than ever during these worrisome times.
  • You've certainly heard of the "runner's high" - that exhilarated feeling people get after a long, hard run. It's not a myth, and it's not just for runners. During exercise your body produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which foster a natural sense of well-being. It also decreases your cortisol, which is the hormone produced when your body reacts to stress. Cortisol is the culprit behind stress' many negative effects - anxiety, weight gain, elevated blood pressure and much more. You don't have to be a conditioned athlete to enjoy these benefits; even a good brisk walk will provide relief.
  • Exercise offers a healthy, natural outlet for your frustrations. What better way to release the tension than through a good, hard workout? Kettlebells, boot camps, running, working out with a friend and strength training all do the trick to knock out worry, aggravation and frustration.
  • Physical activity creates an opportunity to clear the mental cobwebs and the emotional baggage. Getting deep into your body during a workout will pull you out of your head, creating a Zen-like state that will continue well after your workout is finished. Getting out of your house or office and into a fitness setting gives you a fresh perspective and can set your thoughts on more positive focus. The mind and the body are incredibly closely connected - a healthy body goes a long way toward fostering emotional and mental health over the long term.
  • Interestingly, research shows that regular exercisers exhibit less physical response to stress. Now there's a positive thought!
  • Successful people exercise regularly. The renowned Dr. Ken Cooper has studied the impact of regular exercise on top executives for over 25 years. His research shows that CEOs who exercise consistently are significantly more productive, resistant to the demands of leadership and successful than their sedentary counterparts. More on Dr. Cooper's groundbreaking research in a future article.

So, while we cannot control the economy, we can absolutely control of our reaction to it. It's easy to forgo your exercise routine in favor of brooding or working longer hours, but doing so only exacerbates the effects of what you're already facing. Right now the economy is in wintertime. This gives each of us the perfect opportunity to focus our energy in laying a strong foundation for the arrival of spring - it will come. Learn a new skill, register for that seminar you've always wanted to attend, set some new empowering goals, take care of your body and you will reap a bountiful harvest when the economy turns around.

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