Apart from all the health reasons adults exercise, it can become just as important them them in a different way — for relieving stress and even aiding the grieving process.
I am honored to have as one of my clients a wellness doctor who recently wrote about how exercise has aided her in moving forward after having lost someone close to her. As I do with all my clients, we chat while I hand her weights, bands, and medicine balls and keep count as she sweats out the bad stuff and feels the accomplishment of a good workout an hour later. Even after my first session with her, I felt confident I had helped her get through the rest of the day in better shape.
Here are some excerpts from one of her recent blog posts talking about the importance of exercise when you are going through tough emotional times: “Athletes are well aware of how intense exercise goes hand-in hand with improved self — esteem. Whether it’s getting through a strength training session, spending time alone time on a bike trail, or immersing yourself in a pool, you find you have time to reflect and ruminate. Feelings get sorted. Decisions get made. Exercise can be an important coping tool to deal with grief and loss. Experts say that when you become a regular exerciser, like an athlete, you can spend extra time processing hurt and pain while raising your heart rate and sweating out the toxins. Think about it. You allow your entire body to cry.”
“Exercise can also keep you healthy during a stressful time, when your immune system is less than fully-functioning, according to experts on exercise physiology. Even though grief is primarily a psychological reaction to loss, your nervous system still responds as if the event was an attack on the body. One year-long study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that people who exercised a half-hour a day were 50 percent less likely to get colds. And I can attest to how many of my patients who exercise in addition to taking their supplements seem to have fewer colds and flu.”
She goes on to explain how exercise brings a sense of purpose and focus that requires nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other while triggering the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA, which are well-known for their role in mood control. She also explains how exercise may fight feelings of depression better than antidepressants while relieving feelings of anxiety, pain, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, and more, helping you regain your motivation for work and other activities while installing a greater sense of inner calm.
So whether you are going through heavy emotions resulting from life changes or grieving the loss of a loved one, don’t get bogged down with the details… simply get moving; any activity that appeals to you is worth it – hiking, swimming, yoga, group classes, dancing, and bicycling. She also asks you to be gentle on yourself -- especially during those times when all you can do is get through the day. Be gentle and understanding, listening to your body at all times.