I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is E is for Exercise Lowers Stress.
You may not be able to change the things in your life that are causing you so much stress, but you can do things to improve your ability to handle it. There are several ways that exercise lowers stress. Don’t worry. I’m not advocating that you beat yourself up at the gym every day, but regular exercise lowers stress and can become an enjoyable part of your life.
Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.
Physical Ways Exercise lowers stress
For starters, it improves sleep. A good night’s sleep is an important part of combating high-stress levels. Studies have shown that the less a person sleeps each night, the more stressed they feel. This becomes a cycle because people who are under a lot of stress have a harder time getting a good night’s sleep. This is where exercise comes into the picture. “People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.(1)” So, by exercising, you can improve the quality of your sleep. This, in turn, will lower your stress and improve your ability to cope with the stressful things that come up day to day.
Exercise reduces adrenaline and cortisol, the body’s stress hormones. It also stimulates the production of endorphins. These are chemicals in the brain that improve your mood and act as the body’s natural painkillers. They are also responsible for what is known as “runner’s high.” This is why you can feel good after a tough workout.
It keeps you healthy
Regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and helps fight obesity. Having better overall health means less time in the doctor’s office. You will have an improved immune system. The healthier you feel, the greater your ability to deal with stressful things that happen.
Exercise increases your endurance so you can keep up with the pace of caregiving. You will have more energy to get the things done that you need every day. As your to-do list shrinks, you will have less hanging over your head. You’ll feel less stressed.
There are mental ways exercise lowers stress
With regular physical activity, over time, you become stronger and more disciplined. Toned muscles and improved confidence can even result in better posture. All of this contributes to a better self-image.
Exercise also gives you an opportunity to get away from the stress of caregiving for an hour. Exercising using large muscle groups in a rhythmic fashion, such as walking or rowing, is also known as muscular meditation. You can get lost in the tranquility of it, renewing your mind. It is a wonderful time to pray and think creatively. More problems would be solved if people took more walks.
Finding the time and energy to exercise
As a caregiver, your time is valuable. It may seem difficult to integrate exercise into your lifestyle. There are some things that you can do to add extra activity to your current schedule.
- Instead of looking for the parking spot nearest to the door, park further away giving you an extra amount of steps each day.
- Take the stairs whenever possible. Even in your own home. You can go up and down your stairs to your favorite song. Do this a couple of times each day to add an aerobic boost to your routine.
- If the weather is nice, take a walk in your neighborhood a couple of times a day. You not only get physical activity, but the fresh air will lift your mood as well.
- If you want more of a challenge but time and convenience are issues, try a DVD. There are many types of exercise routines you can try, walking, Qi Gong, kickboxing, stretches, aerobics, and more. You can even find these on streaming sites.
- If you are moving from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, you may want to start out slow. You can move to more challenging activities by either increasing the length of time you exercise or by looking for activities that use different muscles. You might alternate aerobic exercises with strength-building ones.
However you integrate exercise into your lifestyle, you will find that exercise lowers stress in many ways. You’ll be glad you did it.
I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker
(1) The Sleep Foundation, Study: Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep; https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep]