Feeling Stressed During the Holidays: Exercise May be the Answer

From both personal and professional experience, I have known that exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress levels.  Even though it has been known for some time that exercise can help to calm stress levels, researchers have not understood why.  However, new research may be uncovering how exercise reduces stress levels.

Research done on mice found that when they were exposed to stress, excitable neurons in the brain lit up as expected.  What they didn’t expect, is that “fit” mice released more neurotransmitters that help prevent these excitable neurons from becoming overactive than unfit mice.  The researchers believe that humans are likely to have this same response.  So, in other words, the environmental stress we are dealing with sends a signal to our brain telling it to get excited and then we begin to feel “stressed out”.  However, if you exercise regularly and are more fit, then your body will better be able to handle these stressors because your body will also produce more signals telling your brain to calm down.

While the holidays are one of the most wonderful times of the year, they can also be the most stressful for many people and exercise is often the first thing to go.  Perhaps, exercise may be even more important right now and may be the thing that really will help to make this a happy holiday season.

So, I wish you a fit holiday season that leads to a Happy New Year!

Source: Health and Science, The Week, July 26th, 2013, page 19.