Family playing tennis

whole health benefits of being active, having fun

Most of us are aware of the importance of getting a regular cardiovascular workout - we hear it from our doctors repeatedly, right?  But it’s easy to overlook the health benefits of just having fun being active.  And it’s easy to underestimate how much our stress level is affecting our body weight if we don’t do this frequently.

Our emotional state influences our body chemistry based on connections rooted in our ancient biological programming.  When we are stressed, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol.  These days many of us are experiencing stress for extended periods of time.  Then our ancient biological programming kicks in – when our cortisol level stays elevated, it signals to the body to store fat, as if survival will be difficult.  That helped our ancestors survive famines and droughts and such, but these days that wiring sets us up for a double whammy when we respond to stress by reaching for the potato chips.

Clearly we need other ways to de-stess.  Physical activity generally helps reduce our cortisol levels, particularly when we are enjoying the activity.  Formal exercise programs work well for many people.  If you are not one of them, here are some other ideas:

How about hobby or sport activities - tennis, swimming, biking, hiking, dancing, bowling, badminton, golf, etc., especially when enjoyed with family or friends?  How about general outdoor activities like gardening (yes, even yardwork), or fulfilling volunteer work?  Even cooking and housework can be de-stressing when we are pulling together in a positive way (it could happen!).

The times between these workouts can be opportunities for de-stressing, too.  When is the last time you sang in the shower or danced by yourself?  Or just laughed out loud?  Isn’t it funny how you end up feeling better, even if you start with a fake laugh, or have to force yourself to start singing?  This must be the friendlier side of that biological programming.

Want your body to get the message that it does not need to be in fat storage mode for survival?  It helps to de-stress by having some healthy fun!  The physical movement, the relational aspect, and getting centered in nature all help to balance our emotional well-being and lower our cortisol levels.