How Does Exercise Affect Grief?
How Does Exercise Affect Grief?
man stretching before workout

Exercise as a Means to Combat Grief Related Stress

by

Question:

I usually enjoy getting out and getting some exercise but I’ve felt so unmotivated. Do you think it’s ok to take a break from exercise?

It may sound counter intuitive and it may even sound stressful to think about trying to keep up an exercise routine in the wake of a life impacting event. However, it is during these times of intense stress, that exercise could benefit us the most.

Exercise Actually Reduces Stress

Exercise, even for short bouts, allows your brain and body to relax. During exercise, blood vessels relax, allowing increased blood flow to all body parts, including the brain. This specific benefit will improve your focus and attention. Exercise also requires deeper breathing, allowing for lung expansion. The average person has a tendency to be a shallow breather. During times of stress, our breathing is especially restricted. The stress posture is defined as rounded shoulders, forward head and shallow breathing. During bouts of short term and long-term stress, stress hormones are activated, leading to more anxiety.

How does exercise combat these issues? Deep breathing and rhythmic exercise stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the effects of anxiety. It is physiologically impossible to feel anxiety during a bout of active rhythmic exercise and deep breathing.

Exercising outside also contributes to a sense of well-being. Research supports being in nature is not only soothing but has long term benefits that are considered brain protective against age related changes such as memory loss.

Of course, you may need to take a break. We all will deal with our loss in our own unique way. But I would encourage you to exercise as much as you can. You may be surprised at how much it can help.

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