Stress, Your Brain, and Exercise

At the center of the crossroads of stress, your brain, and exercise, lies something very important. What is it? What could it be? In a word, CHOICE. Why choice you ask? Well, every choice we make causes stress. What do I eat for dinner? What business school do I go to? How many ice cubes in my water? Yes, all choices cause stress. Stress is our response to demands and changes and it is inevitable. However, there is also an important choice we make around how we manage or fight stress. Choosing to use exercise to combat stress vs using food or alcohol, may be the difference between living a long life and living a short one. The actual decision to exercise or not can be VERY stressful for many people. The reason it is so stressful, is that people are choosing between a perceived short-cut that they know is bad for them (food, booze, etc.) and the longer road which they know is good for them (exercise). Exercise is natures way of putting our mind and body into repair mode. We need to enter into this repair mode often. Why? Because, stress happens often. It happens daily to varying degrees. Exercise too can vary from day to day, but should never be passed up for drink or a snack. When we are stressed our bodies are flooded with destructive hormones that break down our bodies over time. When we exercise, we not only rid the body of these hormones, we also turn on other processes that rebuild us at a cellular level.

Additionally, the effect of exercise lasts. Think about it, people often go back for a second cookie or second cocktail. You rarely, if ever, see someone going back for a second run or second trip to the gym. This isn’t a coincidence. Exercise puts us on a path of resiliency that builds us up. Short-cuts like food and substances, only mask issue and in fact layer on new stressors to the body.

Don’t put yourself in this anxious trap of decisions. Develop a plan that works for you to get regular exercise and thrive in the face of stress, don’t sink into the cookie isle or the corner store. If you are feeling stuck around developing a plan, try reaching out to a friend or a family member for support. It’s a lot easier to exercise with others than alone. Find the support you need to change your relationship to stress and exercise for better.

Phil Boissiere