Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Power of Exercise to Protect Against Stress

Stress is associated with just about every chronic disease we know. In addition, it may be responsible for encouraging addictive behaviors, sleep disruptions and unhealthy eating habits. Not only that, stress can add to your waistline. Stress elevates cortisol levels which, in turn, appear to cause the body to store additional abdominal fat.

The latest research reveals that exercise may be the most effective antidote to stress. Scientists found that "brains on exercise" morphed over time into a biochemically calm state that remained steady even when the subjects were put under stress. This discovery may indicate that cardio workouts actually remodel the brain to make it more resistant to stress hormones. As the brain changes, it seems to take more and more stress to trigger the fight-or-flight syndrome.

How does a cardio workout cause the brain to change? Exercise helps the heart pump more blood to the brain. More blood & oxygen leads to better-nourished brain cells overall. In addition, a vigorous workout causes brain cells to become more active and boosts the production of a protein (BDNF). This protein's role is to fortify the brain cells to prevent them from breaking down when exposed to stress. Exercise has been shown to lead to an increase in BDNF production.

We know your morning boot camp or evening jog produces stronger muscles and a more efficient cardiovascular system. Now we know that it also protects your brain from actual physical damage and infuses your brain with the protein it needs, resulting in that biochemically calm state and a more relaxed attitude toward life's many stressors.

Make exercise a priority this week!

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