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Exercise Makes You Less Anxious and Reduces Stress

exerciseIs there anything negative to say about exercise?

According to a recent article in The New York Times, exercise not just enhances mood and reduces anxiety but scientists are on the groundbreaking cusp of understanding the physiological processes that enable you to feel that amazing workout high after a long run or trek on the treadmill.

We have long known that exercise enables the growth of new brain cells. But at an October meeting for the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, researchers from Princeton University revealed a startling revelation: In response to exercise, brains are calmer and more able to respond to stressful stimuli than brains that have not been exposed to regular exercise.

While the research was conducted on rats, the study does hold powerful implications for the far-reaching benefits of exercise in humans.

According to The New York Times, rats whose oxidative-stress levels had been artificially increased with injections of certain chemicals were extremely anxious when faced with unfamiliar terrain during laboratory testing. But rats that had exercised, even if they had received the oxidizing chemical, were relatively nonchalant under stress.

“It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” says Michael Hopkins, a graduate student affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth.

So if you find yourself this week waiting in an airport line 200 people deep or with a houseful of ungrateful and cranky relatives, show your nervous system some love and move your body. Even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block as the pumpkin pie cools or an early a.m. fitness fix at the gym before the rest of your household wakes, you will feel much better prepared to handle daily stress with a little movement under your bum.

And hey, your bum will probably benefit too!

November 19th, 2009

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