Exercise Fights Stress

     2017 is shaping up to be a stressful year so far. With political unrest around the United States, stress trickles down into the workplace and at home, then settles inside the body. It seeps into the brain and makes it very challenging to stay on course, especially when it comes to frivolous activities like your workouts.

     Except that your body's health is NOT at all frivolous, and exercise is exactly what you need to ward off the effects of the heightened level of stress that you are no doubt experiencing right now.  Stress is a slow killer, but make no mistake about the affects of anxiety on your health. Stress curtails your body's ability to function optimally. And it does so automatically. Your body is hard wired to react physically to stress. Think caveman era stress, when your body needed to shift into high gear quickly due to a wild animal attack or dangerous weather conditions. 

     The heart pumps faster, blood pressure increases, and hormones are secreted automatically so that your muscles can react quickly. Nerve endings are on heightened alert. Your brain's natural rest cycle is disrupted so that you can stay alert despite the hour of the day. What is happening in the United States and around the world today doesn't seem like a wild animal chase, but the body's reaction is the same.

     Treating stress is something that we should all be taking seriously right now. Regardless of political or religious beliefs, your choice to ignore or treat this stress will make a difference during these tough times. Medications, food and alcohol have short term benefits; they mask stress they way that ibuprofen masks the pain of an injury. But they do not treat stress.

     Exercise is your only physical choice when it comes to winning the war on anxiety. Deep breathing, mindful meditation, and healthy social connections also combat stress in a real way, but exercising the body makes a huge difference. Exercise every single morning. Don't add to the stress by thinking that you need to go to the gym every day. You don't. You don't need shoes on your feet. You just need an extra 15 minutes, so roll out of bed and find a spot on your floor.

     Start with ten deep breathes so that you can stand up real straight and think about your body parts. Say good morning to your toes and feet, greet your legs and butt with a little squeeze, zip up your abs to wake up your trunk and vital organs, shake out your arms and roll your shoulders. Look up, look down, look to the right and look to the left. Then start moving.

     Move up and down with squats and/or lunges, and if your legs are strong enough, jump around a bit. Yoga moves like downward dog and upward dog stretch out the torso and the back of the legs. Plank works the abs. Hip bridge and crunch variations are all good. Whatever your moves, exercise stabilizes the processes going on inside of the body that you can't control. Exercise helps to bring you back from the brink of stress effects.

     High stress looks like it might be sticking around for a while, so start tomorrow and within thirty days, this fifteen minutes will be part of your daily ritual. With so much uncertainty, your body deserves the chance to rely on something. Let it be exercise. And if you ever find yourself chased by a wild animal, your body will be ready for that too.

Is the Running Fad Over?

     During a period of about 15 years, from the late nineties until 2013, the number of participants in road races increased by more than 300%. Over the last couple of years, these registration numbers have plateaued. For longer distance events, the numbers continue to increase; however, for shorter races, participation has actually declined. A reporter called inSHAPE this week to ask whether we thought that this information meant that the running fad might be over. 

     Quick answers:
     1. Was/is race running a fad: YES!
     2. Is it ending: HOPEFULLY!
     3. Why: FADS DON'T WORK!

       Fad diets and fad exercise come and go. Like Jane Fonda style aerobics, race running may have hit its mathematical peak but will never fade away. We don't want it to. Everyone should be running. Maybe not running marathons, maybe not running races at all. But running, the act of accelerated self-locomotion is critical to quality of life.

       Running, jogging, skipping, fast walking, sprinting, hiking, and strolling can all be practiced by people of all ages. Congenital and severe orthopedic conditions may limit your range, but forward movement leads to more movement and ultimately, to a higher quality of life. Running, however, demands an education in mechanics, and it requires practice, and patience. 

       Even if you are relatively fit, do a little homework and/or speak to a coach about running mechanics and other details before you begin to run regularly. Two-three weeks of prep work can help you launch into a new fitness regimen that you can truly do anywhere, at any age, without fancy equipment and an expensive gym membership. Get in touch with Coach Kim if you have any questions: kim@inshapellc.com. 

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