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Five Reasons to Stay Active During Challenging Times

Why exercise is one of the best antidotes for girls and women during tough economic and emotional times

There never seems to be enough time in the summer. The kids are out of school, coworkers are in and out of the office and we are always trying to find our own time to enjoy the weather. With many feeling unprecedented levels of stress in their day-to-day lives, women need physical activity now more than ever.

1. Exercise is the ideal way to handle stress
It’s not just rhetoric. Exercise has been proven to decrease the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body. Researchers have also found that regular exercise releases endorphins in your body, causing that natural high or euphoric feeling you get after a great workout. One recent study even found that short workouts of eight minutes in length could help lower sadness, tension and anger.

2. Physical activity leads to higher productivity
While it may seem counter-intuitive, research has shown that dedicating time out of your day for physical activity may increase your productivity. In a 2007 study conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 78 percent of the 700 participating workers said that exercise had a positive impact on their productivity and performance at work. Additionally, employees who exercised during the workday perceived an impact on their frame of mind and ability to focus at work. Whether you need that energy boost to impress your boss at work or to navigate the holiday crowds, exercise can be the key.

3. Action Can be Used As a Distraction
Physical activity itself can be used to take your mind off the myriad problems that can pop-up unexpectedly. Worried about your out-spoken uncle offending someone at the dinner table? Catch a walk to take your mind off it. Worn out from having your children at-home during their summer breaks? Focusing on yourself and your health, even if only for a short time, can give you a much-needed reprieve.

4. Exercise Has Economic Benefits
A 1984 study by Brown, et al., explored the monetary gains of regular exercise and its relationship with disability days and the resulting direct costs incurred. They found that workers who participated in a workplace exercise program had 20 percent fewer days of work missed for disability, which, in turn, saved an average of $353.38 annually. And in 2003, the estimated total national cost of physical inactivity was $251.11 billion, while the estimated total national cost for excess weight was $256.57 billion. These numbers include the cost of medical care, worker’s compensation and productivity losses. In these hard economic times, every penny saved counts.

5. Physical activity=Professional and personal success
This benefit of exercise is undeniable: Those who participate in regular activity have higher rates of personal and professional success. According to a study by Colton and Gore, half of all girls who participate in some kind of sport experience higher than average levels of self-esteem and less depression. According to an Oxygen/Markle Pulse poll, 56 percent of women agree with the statement that seeing successful female athletes makes them feel proud to be a woman. And finally, research shows girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.
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Need more motivation to help? Research shows legitimate health benefits from being charitable. Allan Luks, author of “The Healing Power of Doing Good,” found many documented instances of people gaining physical, mental and emotional benefits from doing good. Luks also describes something called the “giver’s high,” a similar feeling to the “runner’s high” experienced after a strenuous workout.