Why do kids have boundless energy? Maybe because they generally have fewer things to stress them out than adults. Or maybe it's because they have boundless energy that they are less stressed?
Stress and energy go hand in hand. When energy is low, life is stressful. When you have lasting energy or stamina, you can deal with stressors with greater ease. Stamina helps you thrive, not just survive during stressful times.
The Law of Conservation of Energy tells us it cannot be created or destroyed, so where does it go as we age?
In part, it gets used up by the increasing demands of our time and attention as we start adulting.
Stress drains energy because our body is in the state of being ready to move. Holding muscle tension takes energy.
Does cardiovascular exercise cause or cure stress
Getting steps, checking off the ‘cardio’ box on your do list, and burning calories can either release or add to that tension. It all depends on the mindset with which you do it:
Stress Mindset: Trying to get somewhere else. Moving adds to stress and tension when our brain is in the past or the future.
Well Mindset: Trusting what is here now as your guide. Moving releases that ready-to-move tension when attention is on your body in the present moment and moving is an act of self-care.
It does not matter what you accomplish or if you reach your goal. If moving your body is done just to get to a better future state, pushing through discomfort, practicing distraction from your body, or a way to undo the 'guilt' of what you just ate, it is a cause not a cure for chronic stress.
Lasting energy from stamina slows aging and prevents stress
The other part of the energy drain as we age is the loss of stamina that happens without regular intentional sustained movement. Physical activity is any movement. Exercise is intentional movement. Sustained intentional movement is cardiovascular exercise.
Our use it to keep it body still loses the equipment to sustain movement for a longer period of time when we are just generally moving more. Most of our movements of daily life are too stop-and-go, not sustained and intentional enough to maintain stamina as we age.
Add to that episode of inactivity from an illness, job change or injury, and the loss of energy-producing equipment that turns food and air into lasting energy is sped up.
How to get lasting energy back at any age or stage of life
The great news is, your body can get this equipment back, at any age or ability in life.
When you do cardiovascular exercise mindfully, aligned with the science of how your body is designed to move well, cardiovascular exercise is transformed into a time to shed the energy drain of stress now and restore the equipment to produce lasting energy. That improved stamina has been shown to lower stress reactivity.
How do you do that?
By using three principles of thriving well
Presence reduces stress and improves energy
Start by noticing what comes up in your body when you think of doing cardio. Does it bring up memories or images of feeling uncomfortable, not being able to breathe, feeling embarrassed, or being pushed to do more? Motivation is likely a struggle because your body has told your brain to avoid it.
Presence then allows you to adjust what you are doing to feel better now. Choose a type that does not cause pain and your body can do it at a comfortable breathing level so it does not trigger a stress state.
Passion-guided meaning improves energy and reduces stress
Do you sense an inner struggle between knowing you should and not being motivated? It likely means you have been told you need someone or something to get you motivated and make you do it.
By connecting this form of exercise with what is most important to you in life or your Core Why. you restore a sense of meaning to this investment in your time and energy. Meaning is known to calm a stress state and guides you to what to do and how much is enough.
Positive-embodied experience through movement science
Stamina means lasting energy. This is when your body can produce energy aerobically.
This is the energy production that happens when you exercise at a moderate breathing level. High intensity is not aerobic, it's anaerobic. Yes, it will improve stamina, but the price is that you don't feel good when you do it. That tells your brain to avoid cardio.
Using these principles of thriving transforms cardiovascular exercise into a resource for having lasting energy by addressing the needs of your whole person - physically, mentally emotionally, and spiritually.
Available at ExercisingWell.com
Click here to start your free trial to Start Well where you learn to embody confidence, slow aging, and cure chronic stress in a step-by-step six-week online program.
Mücke M, Ludyga S, Colledge F, Gerber M. Influence of Regular Physical Activity and Fitness on Stress Reactivity as Measured with the Trier Social Stress Test Protocol: A Systematic Review. Sports Med. 2018 Nov;48(11):2607-2622. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0979-0. PMID: 30159718.
Childs E, de Wit H. Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Front Physiol. 2014 May 1;5:161. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00161. PMID: 24822048; PMCID: PMC4013452.
Taylor-Swanson L, Wong AE, Pincus D, Butner JE, Hahn-Holbrook J, Koithan M, Wann K, Woods NF. The dynamics of stress and fatigue across menopause: attractors, coupling, and resilience. Menopause. 2018 Apr;25(4):380-390. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001025. PMID: 29189603; PMCID: PMC5866170.