I have found that in times of stress, physical exertion is one of the most effective and important steps to take — and it can actually help us through hard times!
Numerous studies have confirmed the fact that the right amount of exercise relieves stress and boosts the immune system. It releases feel-good hormones — such as endorphins and adrenaline — and reduces levels of stress hormones.
Yet our natural reaction to stress is usually to take things out of our day that seem superfluous and time-consuming. Often that includes the time we spend on our own health. We sacrifice that time — and ourselves — to other more “important” causes at hand, even when the cause of our stress is something we don’t have control over anyway.
I’d like to point out three other important benefits of exercise that are less often highlighted — but equally great reasons to find time every day to just move.
Twenty years ago, as a freshly minted doctor, I swallowed the propaganda that doctors are invincible — that “MD” stood for “medical deity.” During my training, one of my surgical residents told me, “real doctors don’t do lunch.” I thought I didn’t need to follow the same rules of biology like everyone else. I believed sleeping, eating real food and resting were luxuries, not necessities.
In fact, even though I knew all about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle and had always exercised, I felt I could push the boundaries of my body. When I started my medical career, I worked 80-100 hours a week as a family doctor in a small town in Idaho. I delivered hundreds of babies, ran the emergency room, and saw 30-40 patients a day. Sleep was an afterthought. I ordered Starbucks coffee by the case straight from Seattle, bought an espresso machine and served up 4-5 espressos a day. I lived in a perpetual state of fatigue and pushed my way through on adrenalin.