In these past several weeks – during what some have called The Great Pause, yet what felt to many like a big “go to your room” – lots of people experienced a kind of double-whammy.
Stress went up, alongside uncertainty and change. And our opportunities to relieve that stress in some of the usual ways went down.
Companionship was a little too constant for some, and a lot too infrequent for others. Entertainment went just about 100% electronic. Food, for a lot of folks, became the best they could do for something to look forward to, or to distract. And exercise, well, the ways that most of us were accustomed to going about it were swept off the table for a while.
Why It Works
For today, let’s just focus on the physical reasons why exercise relieves stress. There are other reasons, too, but we can save those for later. The effects of exercise on improving mood and outlook trace to some of the most basic chemical and neurological activities of our bodies. Dopamine, a kind of pleasure hormone, is produced when we exercise, and the receptors for it in our nervous systems are heightened at the same time. It’s as basic as that. The effects of this transaction billow out through our bodies and brains in many ways that are much easier to sense. And those ways feel a lot better than stress.
To see how, let’s first take a look at what happens in our body when stress occurs. Back when our survival involved escaping live predators, our ancestors’ bodies learned to produce a couple of useful hormones instantly, on demand. Adrenaline – you’ve heard of that one – and cortisol prepared the body for the famous fight-or-flight response by diverting blood flow, accelerating clotting, and instantly jazzing up our nervous energy. Too often today, this natural response has nowhere to go, and so it can be harmful, especially when it becomes ongoing.
The first way that exercise relieves stress is by giving the stress response somewhere useful to go. Then, the body is further calmed by the hormonal transactions of dopamine.
A Friend Before You Need It
Another lesson coming out of these past several weeks is that people who already had a regular exercise practice felt better, and are coming through the pause feeling better, than folks who have to begin from scratch. As the old saying goes, “The time to make friends is before you need them,” and exercise is no exception.
At Eclipse 1-on-1,we take exercise personally. More than 20 years helping clients has proven again and again how individual the answers to fitness and health can be. We all start from a different place, and we all have different goals. Our bodies share much in common, and yet when it comes to the finer points of fitness, they each respond a little differently. Here, our accomplished Eclipse 1-on-1 team of personal trainers are as invested in your success as you are. Let’s get acquainted.