If we weren’t stressed out and anxious enough, this COVID-19 pandemic has pushed stress and anxiety levels through the roof.

You need relief.

What’s the absolute best way to reduce stress?

Drumroll, please …

… Exercise.

Did that word escalate your blood pressure even more? It shouldn’t, because exercise should not stress you out. If it does, your idea of exercise needs adjusting.

The first two or three minutes of physical activity are typically the most difficult. Once you break through the barrier, you will begin feeling better — and some of that stress will just melt.

To effectively zap that stress, you need to call on your endorphins for rescue service. Endorphins are those brain chemicals that act as your body’s natural painkillers and mood-boosters.

From a personal standpoint, I must exercise every day or I feel sluggish, stiff and useless. Sometimes I’ll toss in a day of rest, but even that day isn’t spent bed-bound or stapled to a sofa.

For me, that exercise usually consists of 25-30 minutes of moderate to intense activity. But that will vary for everyone.

If you don’t think you’re physically able to exercise, you’re probably wrong. Ask your doctor or a medical expert to provide advice on how you can still push your body a little bit every day.

Exercise isn’t just for your body, though. It can be argued that it’s just as important for your mind — if not more so.

I’ve come to realize when I exercise — whether it’s a 2- or 3-mile run, a 20- to 25-minute workout video, a weightlifting session or simply a routine of jumping jacks and push-ups — just a few minutes into the activity, my brain taps that vault of creativity and sometimes unleashes a few ideas I can implement at work or home that day. In other words, exercise gets the blood and juices flowing throughout the mind and body.

For some, perhaps you have a job that involves a good deal of manual labor. That itself can serve as your activity for the day. Just make sure you have a few minutes to yourself and let your mind wander some — as long as it’s a task that doesn’t require 100% of your mind. It’s good for you.

If you’d rather not outline a goal with a certain time allotment, that’s fine.

Here’s a simple goal: Break a sweat every day.

(Just please shower afterward — and, these days I gotta say it, wash your hands after working out. Sanitize any equipment you use, too.)

Reach AARON SNYDER at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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