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Exercise Fattening Stress Right Out of Your Life

Aug 17, 2007
Let's say your day went something like this. The dog got out this morning and it took you twenty minutes to find him and get him back inside. So you were twenty minutes late to work. Those were the twenty minutes you were going to use to prepare for the managers' meeting where you had to present your projections for the upcoming quarter. Feeling a little frazzled, this wasn't your best presentation, your department looked inept, and your boss let you know about it. Afterwards, you and she discussed how to handle the new client you're meeting for lunch. She mentioned that he's a stickler for punctuality so you leave an extra twenty minutes early. This is a make or break contract so you've been polishing this presentation for weeks. But two cattle trucks have collided on the freeway and traffic is grid locked for miles while the police try to round up the stampeding bulls. You try to call the prospect to tell him you're detained but your cell phone's battery is dead. You're 45 minutes late for the meeting. Your prospect is fuming and not very understanding of your excuse and he doesn't even want to hear any presentation from someone with so little regard for possible clients. He'll let you know if you can reschedule sometime. When you get back and tell your boss what happened she is all over your case. As if you did all this on purpose. You can't call her what you'd like to (it rhymes with itch), of course, so you stifle. And so on.

Meanwhile, the adrenalin and nor adrenalin that have been released in your body are crying out for fight or flight and you can do neither. The build up of cortisol and other stress hormones is slowing your metabolism, making you crave huge amounts of fat-salt-and-sugar-laden comfort food, and doing strange things to your blood sugar levels. Since you tried to relieve your stressful state with a cheeseburger, biggie fries, a double chocolate shake and two fried pies, you are accumulating a bit of extra fat. Because of the stress, it's being deposited right in your abdomen, building up your visceral fat to dangerous levels. Oh my, what's a body to do?

Actually, this picture is not too far off the mark for far too many of us who lead relatively sedentary lives. The pace of our lifestyles and the pressures under which we function are driving our chronic stress levels into regions where they can cause serious weight gain. Fortunately, you can reverse this pattern of weight gain and reduce your stress and your waistline at the same time. Organizations no less august than the American Council on Exercise and the National heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health recommend physical exercise as one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and its effects. And we know it can help a great deal with weight loss and fitness as well. We hasten to mention that exercise means a combination of aerobic exercise in which the heart rate is elevated for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, resistance or weight training in which the weight can be supplied by external weights or our own body weight, and flexibility and balance training, conveniently provided by practices like yoga or tai chi, among others. All these together and individually have profound effects in changing our mental and physical outlook so that we actually make less of the hormones that can cause the stressful effects, we just don't get stressed out so much, we aren't affected so much by whatever stress we do have to deal with, and we're just generally happier. People who have physically demanding jobs might do better by adopting those forms of exercise they don't encounter in their jobs, rather than overtaxing themselves in a certain area.

Another important consideration is to work the exercise sessions into your busy life in such a way that they can be sanely managed, rather than becoming another stress-inducing "should." Get up 40 minutes earlier and take a brisk walk. Do some isometrics at your desk. Take half an hour to some squats and pushups before lunch or just when you walk in the door at home. Make your exercise sessions as convenient as possible so you can actually do them After all, you won't need to stop and the candy shop any more.

Exercise can reduce stress in a number of ways. One is that it can provide a positive outlet for all that fight or flight energy, rather than having it simmer away under the surface. Another way is that exercise causes changes in the biochemistry of the body, including the brain, that help it to function better and provide a sense of well-being. The amount of adrenalin released in response to stress, for instance, is reduced in people who exercise regularly. Exercise can stimulate the production of endorphins, which are powerful natural mood-enhancing agents. Another beneficial effect of exercise is that most people do not worry while they're exercising. It takes their minds off their problems at least for a while so their brains can rest and regroup and perhaps come to a solution from a different angle. This is not to mention all the positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Exercise helps your body feel refreshed and relaxed and promotes deep and restful sleep.

Aside from these profound effects on stress relief, physical exercise is one of the main paths to managing ones weight. Just eating less is almost never a long term route to slim vitality. Another stress relieving effect of exercise is the pleasant feeling you get from looking at the new slimmer you in the mirror, fitting into attractive clothes, and drawing admiring glances from others. Right?
About the Author
Di Roberts runs a weight loss website that covers the many facets of weight management. You can enjoy reading articles, tips, news, and often irreverent commentary about weight loss on her site at: http://weightlossupdates.wordpress.com/
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