Q: I am a 50 year old male teacher and have thoroughly
enjoyed my job and believe I have coped well with all the changes
that have been thrust upon me. Recently I have begun to feel
generally 'fed-up' and whilst I do not think I have reached the
stress stage, I know that if I don't do something a bit different
that stress will affect me. I have a friend who has told me that
hard physical exercise might help. What do you think?
A: We do not recommend that you make an immediate start
on any hard physical exercise if you have a pre-existing medical
condition. We suggest that if you have not, that you begin with
a light programme which might include more walking, swimming
or even housework! You may benefit from joining a gym where you
will normally be given an assessment, which will include questions
on your existing lifestyle, together with various body measurements.
Following this a programme will be set for you.
Hard physical exercise can have a number of benefits to the
individual as far as tension and stress are concerned. It appears
that exercise :
(i) reduces a sudden increase in tension or stress;
(ii) forces life's stresses to the back of the mind through concentrating
on the physical exercise, and thus benefits both mind and body;
(iii) through stretching the muscles helps to remove accumulated
(iv) when taken on a regular basis encourages the body to
produce soothing and healing hormones called endorphins - the
body's own version of opiates. These hormones help heal ills
and make the person feel better;
(v) improves general health and fitness and increases resistance
stress and reduces the susceptibility to stress-induced illness;
(vi) on a regular basis causes lower levels of production
of epinephrine (adrenalin), and less dramatic blood pressure
and heart rate rises during ordinary types of everyday stress.
This results in regular exercisers being less likely to suffer
from heart disease.
We do emphasise that before you do this that you undertake
some professional guidance, either from a gym, or your own GP.
Too much exercise, too soon and the wrong type can be as deadly
as the stress you are trying to avoid.