Exercise and Stress Response

How does exercise strengthen our ability to respond to stress?

A healthy cardiovascular system will undoubtedly help us prevail over the negative influences and manifestations of stress. An unhealthy body will succumb easily and fail us.

A healthy exercise regime will develop a more resilient body but our minds need a different elixir.

A good practice I reflect on during stressful times are building stronger habits. Stressful thoughts can be overwhelming on our emotions and the dark hole of depression can be incredibly challenging to climb out of without help.

I adopted a system created by Stanford University Behavioural Scientist BJ Fogg, called Tiny Habits. Much like exercising our bodies, Tiny Habits teaches how to develop strong habits with tiny steps. This has been a game changer for me in creating a healthier mental environment around me. As one cheesy example, my phones alarm awakes me every morning with the message – ‘today will be awesome’. It may be a terrible day but I start the day with a positive and healthy mindset.

In addition to habit practice and frequent movement exercise, learning how to breathe better has many benefits to promote the parasympathetic nervous system over the sympathetic nervous system. Stress and all it’s negative family members thrive while we spend time under the influence of the sympathetic nervous systems control.

Nasal breathing and taking breaths into our diaphragm (as apposed to mouth breathing into the chest) should be a norm and a practice when stressed.

Move often – Breathe better – Start the day on a positive note. That’s how I expect my ‘exercise’ to strengthen my ability to respond to stress.


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