When most people think about exercise, they either think about (a) burning calories, (b) weight loss, (c) improving cardiovascular health or (d) improving their overall level of physical fitness. However, exercise has numerous other benefits that most people aren’t aware of – things like improving neurotransmitter function (which impacts mood, body temperature regulation, blood pressure, sleep and mental function), reducing the negative impact that stress has on the body and mind and improving hormone levels in both men and women. This four part series will focus on the many lesser known benefits of exercise so you can fully appreciate the full extent of what tying up your sneakers and working up a sweat can do for you.
Stress, Exercise and Adrenal Fatigue
Stress is a hallmark of modern-day life. We are constantly bombarded with physical, mental and emotional stressors and our bodies have to try and adapt to this stress. A large portion of that job falls on our adrenal glands, which are tiny organs that sit above the kidneys. The adrenal glands release several chemicals in response to stressors, including cortisol, DHEA, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. If stress becomes chronic and/or too great, the adrenal glands can begin to become overwhelmed, which leads to something called adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue can range from mild to severe; there are many ways to determine which stage of adrenal fatigue you are in including questionnaire s and laboratory tests (the most accurate is a saliva test called an Adrenal Stress Profile). However, as a general rule, if you have enough energy to perform moderate exercise and fully recover the next day, you are still in a relatively healthy state and exercise can greatly improve your condition and help you reduce the negative impacts of stress.
The key here is to do only as much exercise as energy or pain permits. This means that you should feel better and more invigorated after a workout than before you started and you should NEVER continue exercising to fatigue or failure. There will be plenty of time to push yourself once your adrenals are functioning better, but right now, think of exercise as a way to blow off some steam and get the blood pumping.
Perform a variety of exercises that excite and invigorate you – you should have fun with it! Do one exercise for the 30 minutes, or do a variety of exercises throughout the day for a total of at least 30 minutes. You can even split the time up if you need to. Many things count towards exercise, including:
– Gardening – Walking – Biking
– Dancing – Playing with kids – Sports
– Running – Soccer – Volleyball
– Yoga – Tai Chi – Lifting weights
– Hiking – Skating – Climbing
– Swimming – Jumping rope – House cleaning
Find a friend and catch up while you take a walk, or take a yoga class together. Make exercise fun and a regular part of your daily routine; over time, you will find that regular/daily exercise will dramatically improve your ability to handle and react positively in stressful situations.