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Ester Marsh column: Relieve stress with exercise

Stress is part of our lives — just accept it. However, you have probably heard that exercise helps you deal with stress. It releases endorphins and it helps to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Any healthy lifestyle changes you hear about, beside eating healthy, implement a regular exercise routine.

So what does exercise do for us?

• It can make you feel you less anxious. Tests have shown that exercise decreases electrical activity in tensed muscles. People have been less hyper and tense after an exercise session.

• Exercise can relax you. About an hour of exercise can give you 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Part of that response is the endorphin release and part are the neurotransmitters. The relaxation response makes you feel good after exercise, improving your mood and leaving you feeling relaxed.

• Exercise can also make you feel better about yourself. Even when you don’t feel like exercising, when you do exercise you feel great afterwards. If you have not tried it, take a chance and see how you feel.

• Exercise can also make you eat better. Many studies have shown that people who exercise make better choices when eating. A nutritious diet will help you feel better and help you manage your stress better.

Aerobic activity, yoga-type exercises and recreational sports are things which can get you started to help you feel better.

Personally, I am really good about exercising. I eat a balanced, high-fiber diet and feel that I manage my stress pretty well. It has been very busy with all kinds of wonderful things at the Y, such as “Let’s Move for a Better World” challenge, starting up outdoor track season, preparing for the Buck Hurley Triathlon (which is May 3 this year), lots of exciting classes and new programs, and my “normal” work schedule. Even though I don’t necessarily feel stress, my body is absolutely telling me when I am stressed. With stress, I battle some “interesting” gut issues, waking up (more) in the middle of the night (I do have to say when that happens, I come up with the most stimulating new exercise routines). When you experience more stress than usual, you need to be sure to take good care of your body. A healthy diet, appropriate hydration, regular exercise and enjoying life to the fullest are keys to a happy, healthy, stress-manageable, satisfying life.

I have to be honest — a lot of my own stressful times are because I have taken on too many projects. It’s very hard to say no when you strongly believe in what you do. But as we know, stress can also tear your body down by increasing blood pressure and cholesterol, and lowering your immune system, just to name a few things. Stress is inevitable — it’s how you deal with it that is key. Try by starting a regular exercise routine, eating a balanced healthy diet, staying hydrated, proper time management and taking time to live for today. Tomorrow is always one day away.

Ester H Marsh, Health & Fitness Director JF Hurley family YMCA

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