Exercise and Stress: Exercise is the fun and easy way for your family to relax

Surprising as it may seem exercise and stress are strongly related. Regular exercise can play a big role in reducing stress levels. There are several reasons for this:

1. When you are stressed, stress hormones are produced. Exercise helps to reduce the production of these hormones. So take plenty of exercise and stress levels will go down.

2. Exercise actually produces hormones called endorphins which are ‘feel good’ hormones. So exercising regularly gets more of these hormones circulating in your blood and increases your sense of well-being.

3. Taking exercise improves your strength and general fitness which means your body is better able to deal with stress. It can also reduce aches and pains.

4. Your body is designed to move. It is not designed to sit around all day at a desk or in front of the TV. Moving your body will naturally improve the way you feel physically and emotionally. Getting your children to move their bodies more means they will feel better and more even tempered too.

5. Taking exercise is a good way of getting rid of the pent up aggression and anger that often contribute to your stress levels.

6. Playing a game with other people, such as football or tennis, is fun and gives you the benefit of social contact as well as exercise. It is well known that having fun with your friends is a great way of reducing stress. Children and teenagers are usually very good at having this kind of fun. It seems they unconsciously recognise the relationship between exercise and stress. Maybe that's why, on the whole they tend to feel stress less than adults.

7. Regular exercise will help you sleep better. Sound sleep and feeling rested are very important for handling stress well.

8. Exercise increases your energy levels, burns off unnecessary fat and helps your brain to function better.

9. Doing a rhythmic exercise such as walking, running or rowing, or a slow peaceful form of exercise such as tai chi or yoga, can have the effect of inducing a meditative state which naturally reduces stress.

What kind of exercise is best?

There are so many different types of exercise. As long as you get into a routine and take exercise regularly, it doesn’t matter too much what type of exercise you do. As a family the important things to take into consideration are:

- Find a type of exercise that you all enjoy doing and can do together. If everyone doesn’t enjoy it they won’t want to do it.

- Make sure you set aside a time in the week when you can all exercise together. Have times when individual family members can exercise on their own as well.

- Build up your fitness up gradually.

- If any member of your family is concerned about starting any exercise, be sure they consult your doctor before you start your family exercise program.

There are lots of sporting activities that you can do together as a family. If you have an even number of members in your family you can play tennis or badminton together. (Even an odd number can work if everyone is willing to take turns.) If you are able to get together with other families then doing some kind of team sports such as football, rounders or basketball can be fun.

Going out hiking, swimming or bike riding are great ways to get fit and have fun together. Take a picnic and make a day of it.

For individual members of the family it is quite easy to build more exercise and stress relieving activities into each day. Walk or cycle to school or work if you can. When you are at work or at home during the day find time to go for a walk. A proper break in the middle of your working day is very important in managing stress, so using your lunch break for some stress reducing exercise will make your day go more smoothly. You could go for a walk in the nearest park or find a gym near your office. Going with a friend will encourage you both to stick with it.

When your children get home from school, encourage them to do something active:

- take them to the playground on the way home- go and play a ball game with them in the garden or your nearest park- go swimming after school- if you have room, put a trampoline in your garden- buy a mini trampoline (rebounder) that you can have in your house.

For adults an evening class is another way to get some enjoyable exercise and stress relief. And for children there are lots of after school exercise classes available. You’ll find a wide range of opportunities for getting fit. You could try all kinds of dance, yoga, tai chi, fencing, kick boxing, judo…

Keeping it going

One of the hardest things about taking regular exercise is keeping it up. Here are some ideas to make it easier.

1. Think of your exercise time as your ‘playtime’. Children and adults need to play to be happy and stress free.

2. To prevent anyone getting bored with your exercise and stress relief routine, build in some variety. Do more than one kind of exercise. Maybe, go out for a bike ride one day after school and go swimming another day. Do a yoga class one evening a week and go running with a friend on another evening. Or play football at the weekend and go to the gym during the week.

3. Choose activities that you find fun. Doing housework may be exercise but, for most people, it is not very exciting. Make your exercise time something to look forward to.

4. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of exercise until you find something that really works for you and your family.

5. Set up a regular routine for your family and your individual exercise and stress relief sessions. If you feel like you don’t have enough time to fit in any exercise, look carefully at your daily activities and see if there is something that could go. Maybe less time in front of the TV? If the children make it difficult for you to get out for your individual exercise times, see if you can swap childcare with someone on a regular basis or find a gym with a creche.

To summarise, find one or more fitness activities you and your family enjoy, set yourself up a routine, stick with it and enjoy the results – fit bodies, reduced stress and more fun in your family life together.

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