Exercise helps to reduce stress levels. That is nothing new, we have been told for years that exercise releases endorphins, makes you feel good, and helps to relieve stress, but you know that and you can read a ton of articles which say that. But if it was that simple to just exercise and stress levels would reduce then why are stress related sick days on the increase in the UK?
In my experience as a Personal Trainer, stress is a big factor with people who want to lose weight or improve their fitness levels because, regardless of how much they try, they struggle to cope with everything they need to do already, let alone find ways to exercise and lose weight all at the same time.
Do you recognise this battle? So where do you begin?
Join a gym maybe? But then you feel that everyone is looking at you, you aren’t fit enough and don’t know what you’re doing so you’ll just spend your whole session either trying to copy what everyone else is doing and avoiding eye contact with the gym instructors (who do only want to help you but you’re not prepared to chance it!).
So maybe go on a diet and lose some weight first? Yes, that’s a good idea! Get rid of all the crisps, biscuits and other junk food and only eat healthy food – sorted! So what’s for dinner? You don’t have anything healthy in the fridge and you don’t know how to cook anything but beans on toast, but that’s not healthy, right? Or is it? You’re already stressed and it’s only meal one of your new healthy eating plan so how on earth are you going to sort dinners for the next few days, weeks, months…
Ok, take back control. If you get an early night then you can go for a 3 mile run at 5am every morning starting tomorrow – great plan! But you’re restless because you’re worrying that you might not be able to run 3 miles, having to walk most of the way home and making you late for work. And what are you going to wear?! So you inevitably have a rubbish night sleep and therefore keep snoozing the alarm, eventually getting up in a bad mood and really annoyed with yourself that you are still no nearer to achieving any of your goals and unlikely to attempt your 5am run tomorrow.
Do these, albeit a little flippant, sequence of events sound familiar? They do to me. I spent years yo-yoing with my training and diet trying to find the optimum lifestyle – “I can’t go to the gym because people might know I’m a Personal Trainer and will judge what I’m doing and how I look” “I can’t do that run because people know me as a runner and expect me to run faster than I do” “Maybe I should overhaul my diet to make it super healthy…” Sometimes I still think all these things and occasionally they still bother me but on the whole, slowly over several months (maybe years) I changed little areas of my lifestyle that I wasn’t happy with. But is it that simple?
From personal experience, it has to be simple otherwise it’s not sustainable. Begin by assessing what you want to change and choose one small thing that you would like to change first. Slowly introduce these new changes and over time you will be eating healthily and exercising without even thinking about it.
This is the lifestyle change that I support my clients with by encouraging them to make the right choices for what they want to achieve.
So, is exercising to reduce stress as simple as it sounds? With careful planning, it absolutely can be.
Is it worth it? Definitely!