Okay, I admit it. When a tray of cookies appears in the break room, it’s hard for me to pass by without taking one, especially when it’s been a particularly stressful day. Too often I’ve turned to the instant (but temporary) joy of eating a sweet treat. While I’ve always been a big proponent of not completely depriving yourself of indulgences – since in my case it often results in binging later (it doesn’t count if you inhale it, right?) – it’s hard to not wind up feeling guilty and in the end no less stressed than before.
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I have been pretty good about squeezing in a workout a few days each week for a couple of years now and was thrilled to see in my last check-up that my persistence had paid off. A secondary, but also important benefit has been the stress relief. At times battling the traffic just to get to my fitness class can be stressful enough, but I always leave the class feeling so much better, the stress having melted away.
So how does exercise relieve stress? I can attest from personal experience that it does, but I turned to Vivek Kesara, MD, who specializes in Family Medicine, for an explanation of why this is the case. Regular exercise helps our body release neurochemicals, according to Dr. Kesara.
“These endorphins help relieve anxiety, keep us focused, elevate our mood, decrease blood pressure and help with overall well-being,” he explained. “Daily stressors can be easily relieved by some quick exercise in as little as a few minutes a day. Daily work can sometimes be gruesome. A brisk walk will help one focus on tasks at hand which can help reduce stress levels.”
If you need some help remembering to step away from your desk, set a calendar reminder to put your walking shoes and take a quick 15-minute walk around the building, and make it a priority!
If it’s a particularly hectic day, and you can’t even step away for 15 minutes, talk to your doctor about simple stretches you can do at your desk. Experts recommend stretching at least once an hour, so it’s a good idea to incorporate stretching into your daily routine regardless.
And don’t worry about any strange looks you may get from co-workers. Pretty soon they’ll all be doing it too!