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Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress

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Going for a walk with your dog can provide exercise (Photo by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay)

Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief — and why exercise should be part of your stress management plan.

Exercise and stress relief

Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.

  • It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, any aerobic activity, such as a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike, can contribute to this same feeling.
  • It reduces negative effects of stress. Exercise can provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects. This can also lead to positive effects in your body—including your cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems—by helping protect your body from harmful effects of stress.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball, a long walk or run, or several laps in the pool, you may often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you stay calm, clear and focused in everything you do.
  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your mood, help you relax, and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

Put exercise and stress relief to work for you

A successful exercise program begins with a few simple steps.

  • Consult with your health care provider. If you haven’t exercised for some time or you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Walk before you run. Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Examples of moderate aerobic activity include brisk walking or swimming, and vigorous aerobic activity can include running or biking. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits. Also, aim to do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
  • Do what you love. Almost any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, stair climbing, jogging, dancing, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, weightlifting and swimming. And remember, you don’t need to join a gym to get moving. Take a walk with the dog, try body-weight exercises or do a yoga video at home.
  • Pencil it in. In your schedule, you may need to do a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next. But carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority. Aim to include exercise in your schedule throughout your week.

Stick with it

Starting an exercise program is just the first step. Here are some tips for sticking with a new routine or refreshing a tired workout:

  • Set SMART goals. Write down SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited goals. If your primary goal is to reduce stress in your life, your specific goals might include committing to walking during your lunch hour three times a week. Or try online fitness videos at home. Or, if needed, find a babysitter to watch your children so that you can slip away to attend a cycling class.
  • Find a friend. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Try making plans to meet friends for walks or workouts. Working out with a friend, co-worker or family member often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts. And friends can make exercising more fun!
  • Change up your routine. If you’ve always been a competitive runner, take a look at other, less competitive options that may help with stress reduction, such as Pilates or yoga classes. As an added bonus, these kinder, gentler workouts may enhance your running while also decreasing your stress.
  • Exercise in short bursts. Even brief bouts of physical activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try a few 10-minute walks instead. Being active throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits. Take a mid-morning or afternoon break to move and stretch, go for a walk, or do some squats or pushups. Interval training, which entails brief (60 to 90 seconds) bursts of intense activity at almost full effort, can be a safe, effective and efficient way of gaining many of the benefits of longer duration exercise. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

Whatever you do, 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 to easing stress.


This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.

 

Health

MS Health Department emphasizes importance of flu vaccines

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(Photo by by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay)

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are now available for children and qualifying adults at all Mississippi State Department of Health county health departments. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months old and older as the best protection against the flu.

“We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially this year with COVID-19. We don’t want to risk overwhelming our hospitals,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers in a statement.

Byers said flu season can occur as early as November and as late as March in Mississippi, but usually peaks anywhere from December through February.

Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of health care providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH lab. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.

“We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65 and those with underlying health problems,” Byers said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”

Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at www.HealthyMS.com/vfc.

Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year.

While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether individuals are vaccinated or not. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick and washing your hands frequently. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu.

Please call your local county health department to make an appointment for your vaccination.

For Vicksburg and Warren County residents, the Warren County Health Department is located at 807 Monroe St. in Vicksburg, and it is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 601-636-4356 for more information.

To locate other county health department clinics or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website.

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Education

American Lung Association invites Mississippi to join the Vape-Free School Initiative

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(Photo by Sarah Johnson, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82597570)

Tuesday, the American Lung Association announced the new Vape-Free School Initiative, a comprehensive program to help school administrators and educators address the surge of youth vaping across Mississippi.

“In Mississippi, 21.4% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019. Vaping harms developing lungs and overall health and may place people at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We must do more to protect our youth from a lifetime of addiction to deadly tobacco products,” said Rochelle Thompson, senior manager of health promotions for the Lung Association. “Through our Vape-Free Schools Initiative, the Lung Association is helping schools navigate this public health emergency with tools to protect and support both schools and students.”

The Mississippi Vape-Free Schools Initiative includes a comprehensive toolkit of resources, trainings and guidance for schools, including:

  1. INDEPTH: The Intervention for Nicotine Dependence: Education, Prevention, Tobacco and Health is a four-session program facilitated in either a one-on-one or group setting for students who violate school tobacco policies. Instead of focusing on punitive measures, INDEPTH teaches students about nicotine dependence, establishing healthy alternatives and how to kick the unhealthy addiction.
  2. Not On Tobacco (N-O-T): N-O-T is a tobacco cessation program designed with teenagers in mind. It takes a holistic approach with each session using different interactive learning strategies based on Social Cognitive Theory of behavior change. This encourages a voluntary change for youth ages 14 to 19.
  3. Vape-Free School Policy Assessment: Through this brief school policy assessment, educators can see how their school can improve their policies to provide students, employees and visitors with clear guidance.

The INDEPTH and NOT facilitator trainings are done virtually, and the programs for students can be held either in-person or virtually through an online meeting platform.

School administrators and educators interested in getting involved in the Vape-Free Schools Initiative can contact Rochelle Thompson at [email protected].

For more information about the Lung Association’s work to end youth vaping, visit TalkAboutVaping.org.

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Health

Officials urge Mississippians to get a flu shot

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(Photo by by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay)

Officials are urging Mississippians to get a flu vaccine to help minimize the effect of the flu during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I plan on getting the flu vaccine,” Gov. Tate Reeves said during his live news conference Wednesday, adding that he will also get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is ready.

“I hope you will consider getting the flu vaccine as well,” he said.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs reiterated the governor’s words.

“It’s so very important,” Dobbs said.

“It’s going to be doubly challenging with the coronavirus pandemic because we do know people can get viruses simultaneously,” he added, “so you can get them both at the same time,” making the illnesses worse.

Dobbs said he anticipates a COVID-19 vaccine to begin becoming available in the first part of 2021, rolling out first to health care workers and first responders. It may be several months after a vaccine is approved before the general public has access to it, he said.

County health departments provide flu shots to all children and to qualifying adults who lack insurance coverage. The Warren County Health Department is located at 807 Monroe St., open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Flu shots are also widely available at pharmacies and retail centers. Find one near you by entering your ZIP code in the Flu Shot Locator.

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