It’s no secret that our psychological and physical well-being has a significant impact on the course of our life. Long periods of high stress has consequences to our health and well-being and can place us at greater risk of developing chronic ill-health conditions.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading cause of disability and premature death in the world (WHO, 2011a). The global burden of NCDs has continued to grow, and tackling this problem forms one of the biggest challenges for development in the twenty-first century. An estimated 36 million deaths, or 63% of the 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008, were due to NCDs, comprising mainly cardiovascular diseases (48% of NCDs), cancers (21%), chronic respiratory diseases (12%) and diabetes (3.5%) (WHO, 2011a)
Research and scientific knowledge demonstrates that many of these health conditions are preventable, and that implementing cost‐effective interventions and actions promoting the prevention and control of NCDs and injury already available in an effective and balanced manner can greatly reduce these burdens both socially and economically (Schopper, 2006; WHO, 2011b).
There is growing evidence that supports the benefits of regular relaxation training and exercise, such as improving mood, reducing anxiety and depression in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Interestingly, a research study by Guszkowska et al (2013) in pregnant women, showed that even just one relaxation session and one-time physical exercise can improve the emotional comfort of pregnant women, and can be particularly useful for women having problems with fatigue and decreased energy levels.
Relaxation exercises and techniques may also be of particular benefit when behavioural problems such as aggression are the focus of intervention, particularly because relaxation promotes physiological arousal reduction. Conversely, the physiological arousal associated with aggression includes for example, increased heart rate, muscle tension and breathing rate, and this increase can lead to exacerbating angry thoughts and inhibition of internal control. A similar physiological arousal response can also be seen with anxiety and stress, and so learning how to reduce physiological arousal through increased self-regulation is a key factor in the prevention of aggressive, anxious or stress responses.
Examples of relaxation and exercise techniques that have been shown to be useful in physiological arousal reduction are:
- Abdominal breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
- Tai chi
- Guided imagery
In addition, increasing activity levels or incorporating daily exercise such as walking and participating in pleasurable experiences can help reduce depressive symptoms.
Other benefits of regular relaxation training and exercise include:
- Improved cognitive performance (eg. concentration and focus, thinking more clearly)
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved mood
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved energy levels
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved ability to manage stress and recognise signs of stress
- Regulate nervous system and hormones (eg. Cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline)
Arissa Brunelli is a registered psychologist and yoga teacher and is here to help you get your health back. You can make an appointment for a psychology or one-on-one yoga session with Arissa by clicking the BOOK NOW button via our website www.breatheholistichealth.com.au or via our Facebook page www.facebook.com/breatheholistichealth
Guszkowska, M., Langwald, M., & Sempolska, K. (2013). Influence of a relaxation session and an exercise class on emotional states in pregnant women. Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology. 31 (2), 121-133.
Knubben, K., Reischies, F. M., Adli, M., Schlattmann, P., Bauer, M., & Dimeo, F. (2007). A randomised, controlled study on the effects of a short-term endurance training programme in patients with major depression. Br J Sports Med. 41, (1), 29-33.
Schopper, D., Lormand J. D., & Waxweiler, R. (eds.). (2006). Developing policies to prevent injuries and violence: guidelines for policy-maker and planners, World Health Organisation: Geneva.
WHO. (2011a). The global burden of disease: 2008 update. World Health Organisation: Geneva.
WHO. (2011b). (WHA66/2011/RES/2). Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly. Geneva, 19 September 2011, Resolutions and Decisions, Annexes