SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Sept. 9, 2005 – In the wake of the recent tragedy in the Gulf Coast, health experts say many Americans not directly affected by Hurricane Katrina may experience various levels of stress from witnessing the results of the devastation from afar. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s nonprofit fitness authority, says exercise can actually help relieve some of the symptoms.
“Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, has consistently been shown to be effective in helping individuals manage stress,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for ACE. “Research also indicates that exercise seems to relieve mild depression, elevate mood and help people maintain their ‘cool’ during trying times.”
According to a 2004 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 45% of Americans say they exercise to help reduce stress. Exercise is one of many healthy behaviors that can help people deal with stress and is part of one of the steps to building resilience, taking care of oneself. Additional information on building resilience is available at www.apahelpcenter.org.
ACE offers the following tips to help individuals cope with stress and anxiety they may feel after the hurricane:
Exercise can help you feel less anxious.
Exercise is being prescribed in clinical settings to help treat nervous tension. Following a session of exercise, clinicians have measured a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles. People have been observed to be less jittery and hyperactive after an exercise session.
Exercise can help relax you.
One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Some people call this post-exercise euphoria or the endorphin response. We now know that many neurotransmitters, not just endorphins, are involved. The important thing is not what they're called, but what they do - they improve your mood and leave you feeling more relaxed.
Exercise can help make you feel better about yourself.
Think about those times when you've been physically active. Haven't you felt better about yourself? Those feelings of accomplishment and greater self-worth contribute to stress relief.
Exercise can encourage you to eat better.
People who exercise regularly tend to eat more nutritious food. And it's no secret that good nutrition helps your body manage stress better.
IT’S TIME TO GET STARTED
Now that you know exercise can make a big difference in controlling stress, make some time for regular physical activity. To help you get started, we have listed three activities to choose from:
- Aerobic activity. All it takes is 30 minutes, five to seven days a week. Thirty minutes won't carve a big chunk out of your day and will significantly improve your ability to control stress.
- Yoga. In yoga or mind/body activities, your mind relaxes progressively as your body increases its amount of muscular work. Recent studies have shown that when large muscle groups repeatedly contract and relax, the brain receives a signal to release specific neurotransmitters, which in turn make you feel relaxed and more alert.
- Recreational sports. Play tennis, racquetball, volleyball or soccer. These games require the kind of vigorous activity that rids your body of stress-causing adrenaline and other hormones.
NOT JUST ANY EXERCISE WILL DO
Don't try exercising in your office. Outdoors or away from the office is the best place to find a stress-free environment. Even a corporate fitness center can have too many work-related thoughts or distractions for some people.
Stay away from overcrowded classes. If you work surrounded by people, a big exercise class may be counterproductive. Solo exercise may be more relaxing for you. If, however, you work alone, you may enjoy the social benefit of exercising in a group. A lot depends on your personality and what causes stress for you.
Don't skip a chance to exercise. Take an exercise break every 90 minutes and you'll be doing yourself a favor. Ninety-minute intervals are a natural work-break period. And four 10-minute exercise breaks at this time will burn about as many calories as a solid 40-minute session. Work-break exercises can be as simple as walking or climbing stairs, stretching or doing calisthenics at your desk.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s Authority on Fitness, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s “workout watchdog,” ACE sponsors university-based exercise science research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.