Conquering Stress and Depression with Exercise
One of the best ways to combat stress and depression is to make physical fitness a part of your daily routine. Aside from the proven health benefits of exercise, people who exercise regularly are more apt to deal with stressful situations more easily, handle physical work tasks better, and tend to be less susceptible to illness and injuries.
There are a number of reasons we have for not exercising. Maybe you are turned off from your prior experience with a fitness routine. Perhaps you became sore from working out too hard, didn't know the correct technique and ended up hurting yourself, or felt intimidated by the hard bodies at the gym. The main reason may simple by time; with your busy schedules you may feel that you cant devote the proper amount of time to see and feel the benefits of exercise and that this will take away from your clients. In truth the psychological benefits that you will feel will actually benefit your work and make you more productive.
If getting in shape, losing weight, and feeling better are your fitness goals, you have to make exercise part of your routine. In order to achieve results, it has to be planned into your day much like your work schedule.
Whether you're 30 or 90 years old, the time is now to begin an exercise program. Some of you may think that you're too old to exercise but that's a fallacy. A study was conducted by Tufts University where participants, ages 87 to 96, went on a strength training program. Much to their amazement, they all showed vast improvement in strength and vitality. Exercise can reduce many of the adverse effects of aging. Exercise will raise your metabolism and increase muscle mass while lowering body fat. Through exercise you'll also notice an improvement in motor skills and greater flexibility.
While the physical benefits of exercise are well known an even greater value may be the psychological benefits that a sensible fitness routine can bring. You'll see an increase in self esteem and have a better outlook towards life. It will also help ease depression and relieve stress and anxiety. You'll notice improved energy, concentration and a more relaxed sleep.
There are two forms of exercise, aerobic and strength training. Aerobic exercise is defined as anything that requires oxygen to move the large muscle groups of the body. Some examples include: indoor and outdoor biking, rowing, walking, jogging, and swimming.
Aerobic exercise gets your heart in better shape. This will help when you are playing with your children, running for the bus, or washing your car. This is called functional fitness. Being functionally fit keeps your heart and lungs healthy, while making every day tasks easier. Being in better aerobic condition is also important for lowering stress. Haven't you heard the saying, "walk it off," after an upsetting moment?
While aerobic exercise is important, I certainly don't want to overwhelm you with the notion of it. You can start off with 5 minutes and work up to 25 or 30 minutes a day. If you like, divide that time into two parts with15 minutes here and 15 minutes there.
When it comes to aerobic exercise, you know that you are exercising at the right level if you can carry on a conversation while doing it. If you are too breathless to talk, then you are exercising too hard. On the other hand, if you can sing during aerobic exercise, the intensity is not hard enough.
You can make exercise a natural part of your day by parking at the far end of the lot and walking the extra distance to your office then taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or how about mowing the lawn instead of hiring a landscaper?
Strength training or body shaping develops and tones muscle and bone mass. You should exercise all the major groups three nonconsecutive days per week. Some rules to follow include:
▪ Go easy at first. Don't set impossible goals or expect too much too fast. Start gradually.
▪ Keep the weight light. It is much better to build up slowly, rather than use weights that are too heavy. If the weight is too heavy, your form will get sloppy and you will be more prone to injury. Don't let your ego get in the way.
▪ Work the larger muscle groups first, and then proceed to the smaller ones. Start with the quadriceps (front of thighs), then hamstrings (back of thighs), chest, back, shoulders, triceps (back of arms) and finish with biceps (front of upper arms).
▪ Move slowly and smoothly. Perform each repetition in a slow and deliberate manner, taking three seconds to complete the movement. At the top of the movement, when the muscle is clinched tight, hold it for two seconds. Then take four seconds, resisting gravity, as you finish the movement.
▪ Progress gradually. You want to complete 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. If you have difficulty completing 8 repetitions of an exercise with very strict form, it means the weight is too heavy. You are better off using a lighter weight. If you can easily complete more than 12 repetitions, you need to increase the weight slightly-ideally, between five and 10 percent.
▪ Drink your water. It makes sense to keep a water bottle nearby to keep your body properly hydrated. Not only is dehydration unhealthy, it can also make you feel sluggish, and give you a headache.
Try these exercises whenever you need let off steam. If you're feeling stressed at the office or during a hectic trial, the focus that these exercises require can help to relieve your anxiety.
This exercise concentrates on the front of your thighs. Because this is a compound movement, other muscles groups come into play such as the backs of your thighs and your buttocks.
Stand upright with your arms in front of your body for balance.
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
Keep your upper back straight, your head up and look forward (this will help keep your lower back from rounding).
Inhale as you bend your knees, keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor, lower your butt until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor for 4 seconds, feel the stretch in the front of your thighs.
Pause for one-half second.
Exhale as you straighten your legs taking 3 seconds.
Extra stretch: Bend your knees, round your back, keep your head down, and feel the stretch in your lower back and the back of your thighs, hold for 15 seconds.
Round your back at any time.
Allow your knees to go further than your toes.
Allow your thighs to go below parallel to the floor at the bottom of the movement.
Bounce your body in an attempt to gain momentum.
Lock your knees at the top.
For your chest.
Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
Keep your back straight and your stomach tight.
The closer your feet are to the wall, the easier the push up movement will be.
Place your palms on the wall, fingers forward, your hands at chest level, about 4 inches wider than shoulder-width.
Bend your elbows.
Take 3 seconds to exhale through your mouth while pushing yourself away from the wall.
Straightening your arms, make sure that your elbows are not locked at the top of the movement.
Feel the tension leaving your body.
Pause for 1/2 second.
Inhale through your nose, as you bend your elbows and move your body for 4 seconds until your chest touches the wall.
Jeff Rutstein is an internationally respected fitness authority. Jeff has been featured in The Washington Post, Reuters, CNN, and countless other media outlets. He has developed a unique approach to exercise he calls mindful movements. Jeff now shares his philosophy in his acclaimed book, Rutstein on Fitness. For more information, go to