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.
You know when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are doing their routine safety demonstration? They tell you that, if there’s an emergency, you should place the oxygen mask over your face first and then help those around you. I think this philosophy needs to be carried over into every aspect of your life.
Taking time to take care of yourself isn’t selfish — in fact, caring for yourself is what gives you the strength and energy to take better care of those around you. You are in charge of your life and health — make time to exercise! Stop the guilt and petty excuses. No amount of guilt or worry can change someone else’s misfortune or problems, so make time for you.
Parenting is a full time job. It’s no wonder many of us have trouble finding time to take care of ourselves and fit fitness into our lives. But in a world where childhood obesity is a national threat and our kids are inundated with technology that makes sitting still all day seem fun, fitness is a crucial life skill we need to be teaching our children. And children learn best by mimicking their parents’ behavior. As a trainer and mom of three teens, I know these ideas for parents of kids in specific age groups make it easier to add more movement and fitness into your family life and your own busy schedule.
I am always urging you to find creative ways to fit some extra movement and activity into your day. But even I sometimes feel that phrases like “take the stairs instead of the elevator” or “park farther away in the parking lot” have been overused. Yet as I perused a past fitness section of The New York Times, I read an article titled “Great Workout, Forget the View” that once again validated the fact that every step counts. You don’t necessarily need to spend a bunch of money to get some exercise, just a good set of stairs and maybe a few friends.
I am an addicted multitasker. Sometimes I feel really good about that — and sometimes not so much. Many of us can survive on very little sleep to pull off an important project at work, prepare a holiday dinner for 20 relatives, coordinate the entire family’s events while still doing laundry, paying the bills, helping with homework … Yet often we feel it isn’t good enough; we should have been able to do more … like fit in a workout. Ironically, guilt, failure and regret leave us feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. So when you find yourself in “not good enough” mode, take a deep breath and take action.