I was working with one of my clients last week, and she has prompted me to write this article on the body’s physiological reaction to stress, and how exercise can help this.
My client had turned up for her training session in quite an angry mood.. She had contemplated cancelling her session as in her mind she felt too tense to work out.. She informed that she had considered taking a bath instead..
This was a great point at which to educate her on the benefits of exercise and how it can help REDUCE STRESS. I wont tell you what gruelling regime i put her through But i can tell you she felt a whole lot better after her work-out, and had learnt something about herself in the process..
The body is am amazing machine, but we were built obviously to react to extreme danger – our survival instinct. We have all heard of the ‘Flight or Fight’ response.. This is the body’s system for gaining super strength or speed for a getaway situation..
There are two physiological responses to stress. The first is the release of Adrenaline which speeds up the heart rate and increases blood pressure delivering more oxygen and blood sugar to power important muscles. We also become more alert..
The second response is that our body releases Cortisol. Cortisol very basically replaces the energy stores that have been utilised by the adrenal response, which means converting food into sugar (fuel for muscles), protein from muscles and minerals from bone. Now, if we are put into a ’stessful’ situation in our current time, all of these adaptations take place, however, we do not run for our lives, or get ready to fight the saber tooth tiger(!).. Usually we become agitated, anxious, irritable and jumpy. Many of us look for other ways to release our anxieties.. Over-eating, drinking alcohol and smoking to name a few..
Therefore it is easy to see how too much stress can lead to fat storage and weight gain. Unfortunately too much cortisol can play havoc with our immune system, causing depression, mood swings, lethargy and hyperglyceamia (high blood sugar).
Exercise can play a valuable role in relieving stress. It can provide an outlet for the hormones that are created by our bodies reaction to stress. Those pesky hormones that have been released can be productively used as the body intended, and not cause more problems from a physical/mental point of view.
Exercise can reduce the impact of cortisol whilst increasing your body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals, Endorphins giving you a massive boost.
There is also a distraction element to working out.. It helps to take your mind off what is going on for you, so not only do you begin to function effectively both physically and mentally, you lose weight, tone up, gain confidence and focus your energy on the task at hand.
In my clients case it was using her anger to swing a rather hefty kettlebell Afterwards she felt invigorated, calmer and proud of herself.
Stress is a part of all our lives, it’s how we deal with it that matters, and if you can re-train your mind to utilise the hormones, rather than succumbing to them we will win our battle against stress, and even become less stressed as a result.
There are many things you can do to work out when you feel like this.. Cycling, running, power walking, swimming, training in a gym, go to a boxing class, the list is endless.
So, get out there.. Do what you can to make those stress hormones work for you rather than against you, and have some FUN in the process