How Exercise and Running can help with the stresses of life

Source: WebMD.com

Source: WebMD.com

This past week a monumental shift occurred in American politics, the people elected a new president in the person of Donald J. Trump. Now this in and of itself while big news is no cause for concern as elections are held every four years. But, unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you know what has transpired in the last sixteen months of American politics. Thus, the results of the election has underlined a deep divide in the electorate and catapulted a seemingly generally unpopular and controversial person into the role of president elect. Many are calling for boycotts, protests, cessation and are even threatening to leave the country and this is only locally. Internationally, the backlash has many governments and people weighing in with many expressing negative emotions, chief among them uncertainty as it pertains to US policy and relations with international counterparts. Amidst all of this life continues for the average man or woman. He or she must continue to rise with the sun and cope with life as it unfolds.

Whatever side you end up on, there’s no denying that life is enormously stressful for some people right now and extends a ways into the foreseeable future. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and Winter looming, there’s enough going on to keep you in stress mode for some time. The runner and opportunist in me sees all that’s happening and is determined to use it as a platform to make necessary and positive improvements to myself, and to encourage the same of others. If you’ve never given thought to pursuing a health strategy before then there has never been a better time. A good exercise plan is a great idea to begin the holiday season and an excellent way to channel all negative emotions and energy in a positive way.

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold (active.com). It is a universal remedy that is natural, relatively low-cost and pretty accommodating. Here’s how:

(1) It has been known to increase endorphins which lift your spirits and promote your feel good receptors. It’s why you often hear people talk about how great they feel post a run or an exercise session even if they had reservations about doing it in the first place.

(2) A good workout can cause you to sleep better. It reduces your chances of tossing and turning and affords you a more restful sleep which translates into less irritability and moodiness and promotes a more alert, driven and positive attitude.

(3) Running can provide an avenue to let go, block out and/or clear one’s head. Lacing up a pair of sneakers and going for a run engages your entire body system (muscular, cardio & respiratory) in getting on board in a cohesive response to stress which develops this ability for future responses.

(4) A group run or exercise class can promote healthy relationships and friendships that can provide encouragement, validation, accountability and forge solidarity while providing a host of avenues to engage in stress-relieving behaviors.

(5) A good exercise plan that promotes excellent health can give you focus and purpose and engages your time wisely thus providing less time to worry and dwell on things that are stress-inducing.

(6) Having a schedule or routine is a marvelous way to organize and take back control of your life especially during uncertain times or in times of political upheaval such as this. It gives one comfort to know that he or she is taking positive steps to get desired results.

(7) Running with new people, exploring a new route or trail, or taking on a new race distance or cross-training activity can provide stimulation as the element of risk or trying something new produces excitement and challenge; this channels our flight or fight responses into engaging in new methods to preserve self and sanity.

(8) Choose an exercise you love and you’ll get the best results. Life is challenging enough as it is without trying to take on something that will just add more stress. There are a variety of exercises to choose from. There is no rule that says you have to choose this or that. Find what works for you; whether it’s running, walking, cycling, yoga, kickboxing, swimming or any or all of these or one on the endless list of exercises out there. There is an exercise for you that will leave you happy and satisfied. Discover your niche, run with it and leave stress behind.

Getting into the zone where you appreciate that exercise or any of these activities provide a challenge yes, but is offset by your ability, focus and energy can be pretty liberating and empowering. No case has ever been made where stress allowed to thrived have produced anything but more stress, a decline in health and chronically negative attitudes and behaviors. The onus is on you, the individual, runner or not, to seize the opportunity before you and rise above current circumstances – just as the american patriot chooses to rise above partisan politics, for the greater good – in this case, for your greater good.

Sources: themayoclinic.com, active.com, runnersworld.com

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In Honor of Heart Month

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Most of us think of February and think Valentines: cards, chocolates, romance, flowers. How many of us see it as an opportunity to love on ourselves and others in a lasting way? I believe the commercializing of this day has reduced our focus on its true meaning as we get caught up in a shopping frenzy that really amounts to very little left with us beyond the day itself. The American Heart Association (AHA) dedication of February as Heart Healthy Month gives us the opportunity to correct this wrong and create a lasting relationship between our bodies and ourselves.

I like to think that people who are active are aware of the importance of the heart and the necessity of caring for it as well or even better than they care for the outward person.  To think that the minute it stops beating, that it could be your last, is food for serious thought not just for the active person but for all of us. This month we are reminded of the number of deaths caused by heart disease, the number one cause of deaths in the US.  According to the AHA, 1 in 3 americans die of this silent killer, more than all cancers combined.  This should give us pause, cause us to consider among other things what we are doing to give to this unnaturally high rate. Put another way, how can we help reduce our risks and that of those we care for.

There are five ways in which we can help reduce our risk of heart disease:

1. Don’t smoke.  For years now we have known that smoking causes lung cancer. What some of us may not have known is that it contributes to many other types of cancers and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, as well. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and reduces the health of smokers in general (Center for Disease Control).

2. Exercise.  The benefits of daily regular exercise cannot be overstated. Whether it’s running, aerobics, a cardio workout, whatever it is to keep you moving, breathing properly, sweating out toxins, burning unnecessary calories, generating good blood circulation and producing the endorphins and energy you need is good for your heart and good for you.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet.  The AHA is recommending a mediterranean diet: plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
Drinking red wine in moderation is optional. The diet also emphasizes enjoying meals with family and friends (Mayo Clinic).

4. Reduce Stress.  Stress can influence the risk factors to many types of illness such as high blood pressure, over consumption of alcohol, smoking, physical inactivity, overeating. This can create havoc in your body resulting in all sorts of pain and ailments. Exercising, not smoking, reducing coffee intake,maintaining a positive outlook, a healthy diet and a healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress.

5. Educate and Empower yourself with the latest research and findings that has bearings for your health. Also share your knowledge with family and friends to encourage and empower them as well. Knowledge has no power if it remains in a box.
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