Stressed over the market? Then, get active.

Published 9:16 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No doubt about it, this has been a stressful few weeks for all of us. The talk around the Suffolk Family YMCA has centered on retirement account balances dropping and people wondering if the economy is falling apart. If you are like many of our members, all of the anxiety you are feeling may make you want to curl up and sleep or eat too many comfort foods.

But the best cure for stress is exercise.

There are several ways exercise can lower stress. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, and they create a feeling of euphoria, curb your appetite and ease your stress levels.

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Certain types of exercise, such as running or swimming laps, can take your mind off your problems, because you have to focus on your body movements. As you concentrate to perfect your stroke or stride, your brain goes into a state that experts call meditative motion, and your stress levels fall.

Even if running and swimming aren’t for you, don’t worry. Simply find an exercise you enjoy doing. Over time you will see the results of your hard work, and your self-esteem will improve, while stressed-out feelings fade.

Of course, there are whole exercise programs geared toward improving your spirit and decreasing stress. Yoga and Pilates focus on strength and stretching, while practicing controlled breathing and listening to your inner voice. Both practices are well known for reducing the stress of participants and increasing feelings of well-being.

No matter what type of exercise you choose, maintaining a regular exercise regimen will help you lower stress and handle stressful situations better.

If you are feeling stressed, I encourage you to get up off your couch or up from your kitchen table and move! Through exercise, you will discover that no challenge is too great and that, while we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can control the respect we give to our bodies and our ability to cope.

Julie Clark is the senior membership director at the Suffolk Family YMCA. She may be reached at