Corsa, palestra, esercizio fisico, benefici


Regular physical activity produces many beneficial effects on both the body and mind. It has been ascertained that, if practised regularly and not excessively, sport can prevent and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress. Besides improving one’s health and reducing stress and anxiety, it contributes towards relaxing muscular tension and helps induce a state of somnolence. The substance also has a positive effect on the blood circulation and neuronal activity and causes an increased release of endorphins. Endorphins are organic chemical substances produced by the brain, which present physiological effects similar to those of morphine and opium, and have analgesic properties and increase stamina. The most fascinating and interesting aspect of the endorphins lies in their mood-regulating capacity. During particularly stressful situations, the human organism tries to defend itself by releasing endorphins, which, on the one hand help us to endure pain more easily and, on the other, have a positive influence on one’s mood.

Apart from this, physical activity produces many other benefits in terms of mental health. Above all, it improves our sensation of self-efficacy (see glossary) and enhances one’s feelings of self-confidence. Often, when people are very anxious, they will tend to avoid a wide variety of activities which they consider difficult or threatening. Practising sport implies setting goals, which, however insignificant they might be, help us to feel more capable and more trusting in our capacity to achieve our aims. The goals that we set for ourselves nevertheless obviously have to be consistent with our personal capacity and skills. Sometimes it really doesn’t take very much to achieve positive effects. For example, we might decide to park our car a bit farther away from our destination or a place we have to visit so as to be able to reach wherever we’re going on foot. It is also important to adapt physical activity to our daily habits so that it becomes an integrated part of our daily routine. In this way we won’t have to experience it as a serious commitment we have to respect at all costs, and which might be the cause of our having to sacrifice some other important event or activity. It must not become a burden or a source of drudgery, or just one more problem to cope with. Physical movement and exercise should be rather seen as a pleasant pastime and a moment when we can dedicate time to ourselves.

On that premise, when you decide to do some physical exercise, you should start off by doing what you actually can do, and avoid the temptation to overdo it. You will also undoubtedly get a lot of satisfaction from small achievements, such as walking for 30 minutes a day and then progressing every so often to objectives that are slightly more difficult. You’ll be way off track if you set yourself goals that are difficult to attain. It’s much better to enjoy what you can do right now and gradually work your way up to harder achievements. Start off by doing something simple and then, when you get the feeling you can do more, move on to a higher goal. That hardest bit is beginning, choosing a sport and setting out. Once you’ve done that though, you’re already at a good point. The first thing is to decide what kind of physical activity you will enjoy doing. To do that you can use your mind’s eye to imagine what sport or activity would best suit your personality and style. There may be a few things you would never do and others that will seem more pleasant and natural for you.

Now let’s concentrate on the obstacles. You should become aware of what is really stopping you from doing physical exercise. If you begin to realise that you are not capable of attending a gymnasium regularly, you might notice for example that the problem consists in your feeling observed by others. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you can get around the problem by choosing an activity that will not bring you into close contact with other people. For example, you might decide on running or cycling. Once you have decided on a sport that suits your needs and style, the next thing to do is to adopt short-term strategies. Again, for example, if you attend a gymnasium and follow a training/workout schedule that will last for a few months, there is nothing to say you can’t introduce a variation in the programme to suit your own requirements and mood of the moment. Planning is an indispensable factor, but it is just as important to pay heed to your own sensations, how your body feels and what your mind is telling you.

Don’t get frightened or put off when you run into obstacles and difficulties. You should rather make it a point to recognise what the impediment is and cope with it in a better way. Sometimes the best solution is step back a moment and review your strategies. Don’t feel too guilty when you miss a training session out of laziness or for any other reason. At such times you should reflect on what you’ve gained so far, thinking about the improvements you have made and planning new ways to make further progress. Feeling down doesn’t help at all and very often leads to giving up completely. Think of all the progress you’ve made and don’t act in a way that will lead to your losing its effect.

Doing physical exercise on a regular basis will allow you to experience new pleasant stimuli such as the contact with nature and the reinforcing of your body. It will offer you an opportunity to perceive the positive changes that are occurring in your organism. The increase of your heartbeat, the frequency of your breathing and sweating will no longer be associated with anxiety while you’re doing sport, but will merely be the result of pleasant changes in your body. In this way, a sort of deconditioning may occur in time: certain physical stimuli that formerly triggered a sense of fear and were associated with a situation of danger, thereby increasing the vicious circle of anxiety and panic attacks, will now be associated with pleasant or neutral situations and will consequently no longer scare you.

Sport also produces a wonderful effect on one’s self-esteem (see glossary). Those who suffer from anxiety problems tend to present a low level of self-esteem but doing physical exercise - and that includes even light exercises practised in moderation - can help to obtain an improvement in this sense. Doing something for yourself means that you feel that you’re important enough to obtain the satisfaction you are seeking by doing just that.

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Palestra, corsa, attività fisica
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