Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Exercise as a Stress Reducer

Far more people know that they should exercise regularly than actually do it.  

They know that regular exercise can do wonders for their physical and mental health, but they do not seem to have a good enough opinion of themselves to want to enhance either.

It’s become trendy to obsess about plastic bags, the better to show how much you love Nature, but it is worth considering that you will do yourself, your nation, and maybe even nature, a very large favor if you get into an exercise routine.

You are probably not paying for your health care, but just think about how much lower everyone’s insurance premiums would be if we all exercised regularly.

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your country.

If not for you or your country, you can do it for science.

Sort of... One of the ways we try to persuade people to exercise more is to demonstrate scientifically that it confers real benefits.

The research showing that exercise is good for you is a lot more solid than the research showing that psychoactive drugs are good for you.

Today’s research, from the National Institute of Mental Health, demonstrates that a mouse that exercises regularly will be better able to deal with stress, especially the stress that comes from abuse or bullying.

This might sound somewhat frivolous, but keep in mind that some of the most interesting research about the causes of depression comes to us from studies about mouse behavior.

To be brief about it, it is possible to induce a mouse into a state that mimics depression. You do so by first teaching the mouse that it will get some food if it presses the right lever. Then you simply make it that the mouse will not get any food no matter which lever it presses.

Given the futility of action the mouse will become demoralized and give up.

If you are dealing with the stress that accompanies abuse and bullying, weight training or martial arts training would probably be helpful. If we want to help children defend themselves against bullying, a course of Kung Fu will surely work much better than will earnest entreaties to stop it. We are never really going to stop schoolyard bullying; why not figure out ways for children to defend themselves against it?

If you are not a mouse, and you want to defend yourself against abuse, you should work on developing another kind of strength, strength of character.

The two are not mutually exclusive. You need strength of character to engage and pursue regular exercise. But sticking with a regular exercise program will strengthen your character as well as your body.


stg58 said...

My father encouraged us to pound the faces of people that bullied us when we were kids. It didn't happen very often.

I think you are spot on with the recommendation of Kung Fu or other martial arts. The mental benefits are tremendous, aside from the immediate self defense bonus.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Exactly right... and isn't it strange that with all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the bullying epidemic in the schools, that so few, if any, people have recommended that children who are being bullied learn to defend themselves.

All the solutions that I read about concern complaining and suing, to say nothing of sensitivity training. While I agree that there are situations that become so extreme that it might be necessary to take legal actions, it is nonetheless true that if bullying is that pervasive then it is a good idea for children to learn how to fight back.

Surely, that is the most effective way to put an end to a culture of bullying.