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Sports vs. Stress

Sports vs Stress

Did you know that the structure of a person's DNA already encodes what type of exercise is best for him? On the site several representatives of medicine, sport and healthy lifestyle explain how sports activities affect stress levels and how to choose the right sports for you.

Advised by Agita Ābele, Mg. psych ., dr. Adjunct, professor of the Academy of Sports Pedagogy of Latvia, ISU figure skating judge accredited by the International Skating Union; Viesturs Lāriņš, Ph.D., head of the Sports Medicine Department of the Latvian Academy of Sports Pedagogy, professor, sports doctor; Solvita Vekter, gestalt therapist; Igor Kudryavtsev, doctor, writer and qigong teacher.

The physical hand in hand with the psychic

Moderate stress is good for the body because it helps to activate and concentrate. Stress can be like a bird on the wing, but as soon as that bird lowers its wings and the flight turns into prolonged, nagging and unrelieved tension, a person can feel lower than grass. There are a number of ways to help yourself in stressful situations and relieve the tension, including sports. Sports Newspaper tried to find out exactly how sports can help improve the quality of the mental side of life. The body is the "carrier" of the psyche, therefore its health is very important. One way to keep this carrier strong and healthy is through physical activity. "In a healthy body, attention can be maintained longer, because the resources of health and the body's resistance will enable it to be active for longer. Similarly, in a healthy body, all neurological processes will improve and ultimately the kinematics of movements will develop the psychomotor units and with the help of movements, the mutual coordination and functioning of the brain centers will be improved," says Agita Ābele, thus confirming the well-known saying that a healthy body has a healthy spirit. Her colleague Viesturs Lāriņš adds to what was said above, stating that it can also be said that: a healthy mind corresponds to a healthy body: "If the spirit and human psyche are in order, it also determines the physical health and well-being of a person. That's the kind of body that functions well."

The role of sports activities in reducing stress and calming the mind can be explained precisely by the unity of body and psyche. Physical activity serves as a counter-blow to psychic excitement, in other words, with the physical we remove the psychic and the organism returns to its natural state of balance. For example, after a long and intensive activity in one area, working abilities will return faster if there are opportunities to operate in another area. So, for example, if a person studied hard for an hour and then did something active for ten minutes, even if he turned on his favorite music and moved energetically to its rhythm, the next 45 minutes will pass much more productively. The environment changes, the way of doing things, and this change is to some extent like a rest.

"We are unnaturally taught to sit still for 40 minutes, an hour or more without fussing or getting up. The body begins to stiffen, so we should recover this natural need to move a little all the time," stresses gestalt therapist Solvita Vekter.

Physical activity and heredity

Are there physical activities that better than others help to get rid of tension, clear your head, switch to something completely different? How to choose the most suitable anti-stress agent for you? There is no single answer to these questions. Any choice that a person makes largely results from "I like/dislike", "I am interested/not interested" - this also applies to sports lessons. Here, though, physical prowess and heredity also come into play. Some are more inclined to aerobic activities or endurance sports, others to strength and speed, and therefore choose a sport that is more biologically acceptable. It turns out that what type of load is most suitable for him is already encoded in the human DNA structure. "Australian scientists have proven that the structure of the alleles (alternative form of the gene - author) of those whose dominant trait is strength is round, while those whose strength traits are dominant have squares," says Viesturs Lāriņš.

Whether the chosen physical activity will provide not only physical, but also mental well-being depends on several factors. For example, from the specific situation and emotional state in which a person is. Agita Ābele explains: "If I am at a stage in my life when I need to sort myself out, I need to get clear about various things, maybe I will choose cyclical activities of slower intensity. If I need to be active, to deal with creative things or I am in an abundance of emotions, I need expression and acyclic movements - jumping, running, because monotony will only depress me even more. Usually, creativity and cyclicality are opposites." No less important aspect is the intensity of the load. He lifts and lifts the dumbbells or runs on the treadmill, but his mind is still filled with worries about some unfinished business, an argument with his wife and other things that do not give peace. So the load is too small! As soon as the lesson becomes more intense and the pulse - faster, the body concentrates all its forces to be able to do this work. According to Viesturs Lāriņš, this is one of the main reasons why many men choose to go to the gym and lift weights. When you have to overcome strong resistance, it is impossible to think about anything else. This is what should be learned from a sports lesson - to find a level of exertion, so that afterwards there is a feeling of fatigue, but the next day, when the recovery phase has passed, well-being follows.

It is worth studying one more circumstance, which also plays an important role in the context of "sports against stress". It's the will factor that sometimes goes missing, and it has nothing to do with how self-disciplined or strong you are. "If you have made decisions all day, made many choices, in the evening you really want not to make a choice," says Solvita Vektere. "Such people should exercise either in the morning or find time during the day when their willpower is not yet exhausted. In no case should you torture yourself with self-reproach that you need to do sports, but you don't have enough energy for it. If playing sports does not bring joy, there is little point and the effect is low." On the contrary, there are those who are easily physically employed all day, and not burdened with an intense mental load - then you can force yourself to get up from the sofa and go for sports.

Peace, only peace

If the need to get rid of stress is regular, Solvita Vekter invites you to try to understand what are the causes of chronic tension and think about how to influence or change these conditions. Does it seem like punching a punching bag or kicking some objects will help wipe away anger at your boss or mother-in-law? Not at all. "The world is not perfect and there are many internal conflicts. Both physical manifestations - muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulder area, shallower breathing, as a result of which the internal organs do not bleed sufficiently - and aggression are just consequences," explains the specialist. So that physical exercises are not a response to anger, but a purposeful self-organization, gradual exercise under the guidance of a physiotherapist will be useful. Breathing exercises that can be done while walking down the street are also valuable. Do it like this: inhale to the count of six, then hold your breath to the count of six and exhale to the count of six. The personal experience of Solvita Vekteres shows - the head becomes clearer and energy appears. True, this exercise is more intended to improve lung function.

Doctor, writer and qigong teacher Igor Kudryavtsev recommends the following breathing exercise to reduce stress: take a deep breath through your nose, so that the inhale goes all the way to the lower part of the abdomen, and on the exhale, it spreads through it. You can exhale both through the nose and the mouth. Most importantly, during this process, when thoughts do not give peace, allow them to "flow" together with the inhale to the same lower part of the abdomen (as in an hourglass), then concentrate them and "collect" them in the abdomen as it were. Repeat this at least 10 times. The head will be free and peace will come.

The catharsis of sports games

So far we talked about turning negative stress into distress using physical resources. But there is another technique where the psyche actively participates. Watching sports on TV is, was and will be a popular activity for men, which turns out to be not as passive as it might seem. Research has concluded that even remotely - as a viewer - experiencing strong positive emotions and feeling an emotional uplift, mirror neurons in the brain project it as their own personal experience, which changes the psyche here and now. "You go through it, you have expectations, anxiety before the start, a trip along the track or a run around the field. Joining and co-experiencing takes place, which leads to positive changes in the psyche. There is always catharsis in sports and it is even healing for the psyche," says Solvita Vektere.

It is even healthier to watch sports games in person, when you can get mass psychosis in a good sense - to blend in with the crowd, to be one of many. S. Vektere adds: "What men often don't do on a daily basis - they don't scream, they don't jump to their feet, they don't thump each other out of joy. But you also need that, you need to let go of your wildness! This is a socially acceptable way to express.”


Sports with a high level of stress: any type of jumping, sports with high movement dynamics, sports games, combat sports

Sports with a low level of stress: cyclical sports with moderate, medium intensity - cycling, running, clubbing, swimming.