Stress. It’s an expected response to adverse or dangerous situations. A small amount can be a good thing, increasing our energy and helping us to focus on things we find challenging. Too much can seriously affect our quality of life and contribute to a range of physical and mental health problems.
If you are constantly under stress, whether it’s because of a high-pressure work situation, complex family issues or just general over busyness, there’s little doubt it will have some affect on your health.
Stress is a contributing factor in a range of conditions from high blood pressure through to depression. To make matters worse, people who are stressed also tend to behave in ways that further compromise their health. They’re less likely to eat well, generally sleep less and may opt to deal with their feeling by over-using alcohol and other drugs.
There are many things that can be done manage stress. One of the most successful may just be the simplest. It’s regular exercise. And you needn’t be ready to tackle a marathon to experience the benefits. Exercise in almost any form will do it.
Just being active, whether that means taking a brisk daily walk with the dog, joining the local tennis club or kicking a ball about with your children or grandchildren will increase your overall health and your sense of well being, flooding your body with feel-good endorphins (often called the happy hormones), pumping oxygen through your system and taking your mind off the things that worry you.
People who exercise often find their sleep improves, which can be a major problem if you’re stressed, and with the extra activity their energy levels increase further elevating their mood.
“There is ample clinical evidence to show the benefit of regular physical activity on our health,” says HealthCheck doctor, Dr Bridie O’Donnell.
“The social, psychological and physical benefits of elevating the heart rate and blood pressure, getting outside, practicing the mindful repetition of tasks like swimming, rowing or running. All of these things assist in providing a much needed 'time-out' from our demanding lives,” says Bridie
“It’s estimated that half the population don’t do enough exercise and for the over 65s it’s less than a third,” she says. “With the rise in reports of anxiety, depression and generalized stress exercise has never been more vital,” she adds.
The best type of exercise to take up is something you enjoy (you’ll be more likely to keep it up if it makes you happy). Some say a competitive activity is especially good, having an opponent or being part of a team can push you to work harder and the social side can be really beneficial, but it really is entirely up to you. What matters is making a start.
“There really is a miracle cure staring us in the face,” says Bridie. “One too many patients and doctors have quite simply forgotten about.”
Epworth HealthCheck is a premier health assessment service providing patients with a comprehensive and thorough check of their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Visit www.epworth.org.au/healthcheck to find out more.