When it comes to exercise and stress, most of us think back to past conversations we have had during visits to the doctor or physician. You know the sort of thing. They take our blood pressure and, noting it’s on the high side, comment that we need to take it easy and let go of some bit of our schedule before the stress kills us. Fair enough we think.
But then they always make that last “Columbo” comment – you remember the disheveled detective from the 70s played brilliantly by Peter Falk? Whenever the villain thought he was on the verge of getting away with it, Columbo would always turn and say “oh, there’s just one more thing..”. POW! You just KNEW it would be the final thing that would totally solve the case and make everything fall into place.
The doctor ALWAYS says “Oh, and doing more exercise will help”.
So, what does exercise have to do with stress?
Well, our bodies send out chemicals, hormones that regulate how we deal with stressful situations. We’ve all heard about adrenaline and how it’s the hormone that gives us that “fight or flight,” reaction – racing of the heart and increase in sugar output – to get us ready to run from danger or stand up and face it.
Well the “fight or flight” response is also known as the stress response. And we secrete adrenaline whenever we experience any kind of stress – not just real physical danger. So, every time we have to hit the brakes fast to avoid an accident, the boss brings forward the already tight deadline by another day or our preschooler split his head open falling out a tree, our bodies go into that “fight or flight” mode. And if we don’t discharge that adrenaline through some form of exertion, it leaves us on edge.
Do this a dozen times a day and it will lead to adrenal exhaustion. So, what can we do?
Even gentle exercise can imitate that “real danger encounter” and allows us to get rid of the adrenaline. So, hit the stairs while at work. Go for a walk in the park. Take a brisk walk around the block. Bop to the radio whilst at the coffee machine. Whatever you do, learn to diffuse that stress buzz with exercise.
Your body will thank you for it!