Step 5 of The Lifestyle Solution is exercise.
Consistent, sustainable exercise is essential for keeping the body in a healthy state of balance. And although it’s one of the simplest steps, it is very effective in conditioning the body and mind and relieving you from the daily stressors in life. Exercise can decrease ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost. (This is the often called a ‘runner’s high’.) Exercise is not only good for your overall health and longevity, but moreover your physical attractiveness, which can be linked to positive feelings about oneself.
I believe that walking daily is one of the most essential components to keeping healthy and mastering stress. Walking is the most natural form of exercise for humans; our evolutionary genetic makeup is built for it. This is why a strongly advocate that you walk briskly for sixty to eighty minutes daily, on your own and without interruption. No talking to friends, no smart phones, no iPods and no watching TV if you’re on a treadmill. That said, if possible, immerse yourself outdoors come rain or shine!
Stretching is a good way to relieve stress and calm the body and mind. You should stretch as often as possible, at least four days a week. The Lifestyle Solution shares the stretching routines that I developed from yoga practices during my recovery from my breakdown. My suggested stretching exercises are simple and can be practiced anywhere, even in a bedroom or hotel room. The only equipment required is a towel to lay on the floor. This simplicity allows one to spend their time wisely and without the stressful need of rushing from place to place. The best time to stretch is immediately after your morning walk or exercise.
I also highly recommend what is called “earthing” which is essentially walking barefoot outdoors. Research has begun to reveal a direct link between health and a physical connection to the earth and its electrical fields. Our bodies have developed in contact with the earth’s surface and for most of our history, humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground. Scientific research is now indicating that this contact with the ground allows for a natural exchange of electrons between the earth and our bodies. This transfer of electrons helps to neutralize free radicals, and thus can aid immensely in maintaining balance and in the prevention of disease and illness.
A few Exercise pointers:
Exercise regularly—ideally, a brisk sixty-to-eighty minute walk each morning outdoors, free of all distractions, allowing yourself time and space to reflect.
Stretch most days (at least four), following the prescribed stretching routine, or something similar.
Where possible, spend fifteen minutes or more “earthing” each day, connecting directly to the earth’s surface with your skin (by standing or walking barefoot).
Whether or not you follow my suggestions above or develop your own exercise routines, don’t think of exercise as just one more thing on your to-do list. Find an activity you enjoy — whether it’s an active tennis match or a meditative meander down to a local park and back — and make it part of your regular routine. Any form of physical activity can help you unwind and become an important part of your approach toward well-being and mastering stress.