LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE TV)- A lot of people are hitting the gyms in the new year to shed some pounds. But that's not the only benefit of exercise and for people living in Kentucky, making that resolution to exercise could be an especially important decision.
A recent poll finds Kentucky is the 2nd most stressed state in the country, and on the heels of that headline came the news that Louisville ranked in the top 5 saddest cities.
Exercise may be able to help Kentucky turn those numbers around.
At Baptist East Milestone Wellness Center, Louisville attorney Peter Ostermiller started a fitness routine and lost 30 pounds in 2011. But he says that's not all he shed. "It's hard to describe" Ostermiller says, "you feel better when you finish exercising." It's something he carries with him through the day and he credits with reducing his stress load.
Fitness Director Carlos Rivas says there's a reason exercise is a natural stress reducer. "That's because your brain produces seratonin, which calms you down. It produces endorphins which is a chemical that actually makes you feel better. And it produces dopamine which actually give you more motivation" Rivas said.
Low dopamine levels are a chemical imbalance often treated with depression medications.
Rivas wasn't surprised when Kentucky and Louisville ranked near the top for being stressed and depressed.
"Depression is a form of stress and depression, not in check can cause cortisol levels to go up which causes heart attacks and strokes and high blood pressure, diabetes." Rivas said.
They are all health issues that plague the state of Kentucky. But exercise says Rivas, lowers cortisol, can help reverse deadly disease and keeps stress in check.
For Peter, working in a profession that's 4-times as likely to suffer from profession he says, "I know I did the right thing. No question about it."
In addition to exercise, Rivas recommends more frequent meals throughout the day to keep energy levels up and at least 6 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night to curb the hormone that triggers hunger.