Banish Stress Hormones For Better Health

When you let yourself enjoy playful exercise, your joyous movement significantly decreases stress hormones. The resulting health benefits are almost too long to list: Heightened confidence, improved physical fitness, better sex life, expanded heart capacity, longevity and inner peace. The trick is finding a playful activity you love and can stick with.

Mending Mind, Body, Spirit

Engaging in physical playtime activities go way beyond merely working your heart, skeletal muscles, nerves and connective tissue into better shape. Just as important as physical improvements are essential improvements to your spiritual self, supporting your inner peace and assurance. Playtime defends you against the insidious anxiety fostered by daily frustrations and challenges. It lets you attract better experiences into your life. It also makes you feel younger and more in touch with the pleasurable child-side of life.

Furthermore, when playful activities help alleviate stress, anger and depression they are banishing independent risk factors which can lead to heart disease.¹ ² Hostility has been called the “Achilles’ heel” of the cardiovascular system—it stimulates the production of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol which negatively impact the heart.

In fact, emotional stress can precipitate severe but reversible heart problems. This was described in a study published in the Feb. 10, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine in which the stress chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine were found to bring on severe impairment of the heart’s left ventricular function during high stress moments. The extreme production and outpouring of these natural chemicals are also known to wreak havoc throughout the body.

These stress hormones can:

  • Stiffen arterial muscle tone which increases blood pressure.
  • Intensify the production of free radicals which leads to oxidative damage.
  • Accelerate the release of cytokines, prostaglandins and leukotrienes, the chemicals of inflammation.

Playtime reduces the likelihood of all these undesirable changes. Instead of dousing your internal organs in stress hormones, playful activity bathes them in endorphins, the natural “feel good” hormones. Furthermore, engaging in playtime with a wondrous child’s perspective instead of as a grumpy adult multiplies the benefits.

Choose Joy

So, whatever exercise you choose for now, it must be something you truly enjoy. It bears repeating: Feeling good and experiencing blissful feelings in your life are keys to healing and health. When you pick an activity, whether it is walking, jogging, yoga, cycling, movement exercises or strength training, do it with gratitude in your heart. Celebrate your ability to move and be alive while you listen to your favorite music during playtime.

Life’s Lessons

These kinds of lessons apply to your personal life as well as to your playtime. Again, I speak from personal experience. As I discussed previously, at the same time as my medical career was turning toward complementary medicine, my wife and I were choosing to allow each other time apart to find out what kind of companion we truly wanted. We each sincerely wanted the other to be happy even if it meant separation. However, we found that we continued to call each other for advice, for challenges and companionship, almost on a daily basis. We found that we enjoyed most of all to be together with our children. So we went to movies together, hung out at the house together, discussed all aspects of life and relationships together, went on walks together, prepared meals together and had family planning time together. Indeed, we still felt married but decided to forego physical intimacy. In fact, our hearts remained even more united in our connection to our children and to each other’s life paths. It is remarkable how love can display itself it in non-traditional ways.

Despite our inner peace and family happiness, we found that some of the others in our life did not accept our decision of divorce. Not at all!  Starting with our own family, we experienced great resistance and even condemnation. I know they wanted to see our family stay together, but we were already together in spirit and were at peace with our decision. They, on the other hand were scared. They were upset. Maybe they secretly wanted out of their own relationships…

They told us we should be back together, but our hearts were leading us to new circumstances. And we both knew it. We had decided to own our own happiness. It was a difficult time for all those who were not able to let go of their judgment upon us. Our neighbors (highly religious folks) really gave my wife the cold shoulder and shunned her from social circles. We became the hot topic of gossip and were such a “disappointment.” Then, sad to say, false rumors circulated that infidelity was the cause of our separation.

I suppose it made some local gossips feel good to pass ugly rumors along. But in the end, we have been discovering our true friends and realizing that there are those who are too immature to support us. In addition, we have learned to disconnect and allow others their opinions and the space to process their own beliefs that cause them pain and worry. After all, whose life-choice is it anyway?

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Author, Easy Health Digest

¹ Mittleman MA, Maclure M, et al. Educational attainment, anger, and the risk of triggering myocardial infarction onset. Archives of Internal Medicine 1997, 157:769-775.

² Jiang W, Babyak M, Krantz DS, et al. Mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia and cardiac events. JAMA 1996, 275:1651-1656.


Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.