Exercise as a Stress Management Tool

One of the powerful benefits exercise has on your overall health and well-being is stress reduction (many more were discussed in the Move Well section).

Exercise is a fantastic way to burn off the stressful energy that builds up in your body. It is a much more healthy and constructive way to blow off steam than yelling at someone or emotionally eating sugar or drinking alcohol. Even just getting out to walk around the block, doing some simple stretches or moving your body around like doing “The Linden” can quickly change your mood for the better when you are feeling stressed.

Working out in an even more vigorous way, like lifting weights or doing a cardio workout, will also dramatically transform your mood. All of that muscular tension that builds up when you are stuck in Fight-or-Flight gets used in the workout to move and contract your muscles and then that tension is let go. It doesn’t stay locked in your muscle system making your shoulders, neck and lower back sore and painful. Especially if you know you are someone that stores their tension in those places.

I see this a lot in my office when I am doing the computerized scans of patient’s nervous systems when they are starting care with me. We discussed earlier about how when your body is overwhelmed by stress it stores what it cannot deal with in the moment as tension in the body. It typically stores it either in the muscles (usually in the neck and shoulders or in the lower back) or in the Autonomic Nervous System that is the part of your nervous system that controls all of your organs and glands.

The scans I do in my office detect exactly where this tension is being stored in your body. The Surface EMG scan looks at the muscle activity around the spine and measures how much and where stress is being stored in the muscle system. The Thermography scan takes temperature differences along your spine and measures the amount of stress that affects the organs and glands.

If your surface EMG readings are very high, then I know exercise will be an important tool for you to help you burn off that muscle tension stress that is causing your headaches and other body aches.

But if your Thermography readings are very high, then I know meditation and other relaxation techniques will be the tools that will help you manage the stress that is affecting your digestion, your elimination, your hormone balances and other systemic stress disorders.

The majority of people hold their stress in their neck and shoulders. Stretching and moving these areas regularly will prevent the layering up of more and more tension that will eventually cause more and more significant health problems down the line.

Unfortunately, usually the times when you are the most stressed and really need to use exercise to help you with it, are when you have the least time available to do it. You know exercising will help but you just cannot find the time. Well…find the time.

Get up earlier. This is a time where getting a little less sleep might actually help you so you can get some exercise in. Go for a 20-minute walk at lunch rather than sitting around or trying to get more errands done. Eat dinner a little later or go for a walk after dinner so you can get your body moving. Or do them all if you are really stressed out. However you are able to do it, move, stretch and exercise to help you manage your stress.


*Exerpted from the Being Well Lifestyles Home Study Course by Dr. Jay Warren.

Drawing on over two decades of experience as a hands-on holistic practitioner, Dr. Jay Warren is a primary healthcare provider and licensed chiropractor in the San Diego area. He has spent tens of thousands of clinical hours helping his patients achieve their optimal health potential through holistic approaches bolstered by years of personal experimentation, education and research. Dr. Jay creates customized plans integrating exercise, nutrition and stress management strategies to overcome a myriad of health challenges. For more information, email drjay@drjaywarren.com or visit www.DrJayWarren.com.

About the Author

Dr. Jay Warren has been a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor for 17 years. He is also the Wellness Care Coordinator at the CAP Wellness Center in San Diego, CA where 90% of his practice is pregnant or postpartum women and babies under one year old. Dr. Jay is a proud member of the ICPA and APPPAH (the Association or Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health) and the host of the podcast “Healthy Births, Happy Babies” in iTunes. His online program, “Connecting with Baby” guides pregnant women through processes to strengthen maternal bonding for a happier pregnancy, gentler birth and easier post-partum experience. Dr. Jay is also the proud father of his 3 year old son, Niko who keeps him very busy (and happy) outside of the office.