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Stress Management for Health Course

Exercise - Introduction


"Aerobically active individuals have been shown to have a better interplay between their activating, stress response, sympathetic nervous system and their relaxing, restorative, parasympathetic nervous system.  This suggests that fit individuals may be less psychologically reactive in stressful situations."



Western society has undergone radical change since the advent of the industrial revolution and especially so since the availability of affordable motoring and the mechanisation of many manual tasks which means we no longer get natural exercise.  Some of the roots of the modern day stress problems lie in the lower exercise levels brought about by increasing mechanisation.  For example watch any 1930's, 1940's news reels and you will see the vast majority of workers at the end of their shift walking or bicycling out of the factories, whereas today you will see the vast majority of factory workers leaving in cars.  Human beings are hunter-gatherers, designed to walk up to 25 miles a day gathering our food, so, as we no longer do this, we have to build exercise into our day. 

In a landmark, 278-page report by the Surgeon General titled, "Physical Activity and Health" research indicates the affects of exercise on our health.  It found that regular aerobic exercise helps to reduce our risk of developing or dying from some of the commonest diseases in the west such as stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes, etc.

Thousands of scientific research papers have shown the immense psychological and physiological benefits of aerobic exercise, yet the Allied Dunbar Insurance Fitness Survey on the UK's exercise habits revealed that only 20% of men and 11% of women take enough exercise.  Research by the British Heart Foundation indicates that lack of exercise is as bad as smoking 20 cigarettes a day or having high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Regular, aerobic exercise is one of the most valuable yet underused techniques we can use to help reduce stress and improve our psychological and physical wellbeing.  Perhaps one of the reasons for exercise being so underused is that many people believe exercise has to be painful, difficult and uncomfortable in order for it to be effective and that you have to jog miles in order to reap the benefits.  This is not so, you need to remember to start slowly, gradually building-up your exercise tolerance with your eventual target being 20 - 30 minutes of walking a day. But remember that if you stop exercising you will lose the psychological and physiological health protection benefits that you had originally gained.


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