As defined in the Oxford dictionary, stress is often perceived to primarily be a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding situations. These adverse or demanding situations include work, family, as well as professional and personal relationships. However, too little or too much exercise can also place stress on our bodies. When we don’t exercise often enough, some of the basic functions that our body performs can suffer. Systems such as our cardiovascular and respiratory systems do not perform at their peak, limiting the effectiveness in which oxygen rich blood is able to be transported throughout our bodies. The lack of oxygen rich blood also limits the growth potential of our muscles, which in turn makes it harder to burn fat. With too much exercise, we do not allow our bodies to get sufficient opportunities to recover, repair and rebuild itself. An example of too much exercise, or overtraining, is consistently doing moderate to intense cardio followed by an intense strength session. Training this way places extra energy demands, from glycogen stores, on your body with insufficient rest to replenish the glycogen used. Meaning that you will begin your strength workout with depleted glycogen stores. This can act as a hindrance to the muscular growth you’re attempting to attain from your workout. Whenever we place our bodies under stress, there is an increase in the hormone cortisol. Consistently high levels of cortisol negatively impact our body’s ability to burn fat, and it can also cause us to get ill more frequently and stay ill longer. There are steps that can be taken to ensure that our bodies function at their peak, without suffering any of the negative side effects of stress.
Creating a healthy work-life balance. As much as possible, not taking our work home with us at the end of the day, and setting strict boundaries as to how much time outside of work will be dedicated to our jobs. In some instances, saying no to extra tasks when we’re already overwhelmed is the best way to go. If we can do so, delegating tasks to those that we work with can lighten our load, and decrease the amount of stress we experience.
Recharging and refreshing our bodies. Being mindful of the triggers that increase our stress levels can allow us to better handle stress. With this mindfulness, when we recognize the triggers, we may be able to take simple steps such as spending some time in the sun and using that time to try and clear our mind. Two other ways that we can recharge and refresh ourselves is by getting a massage, and trying to increase the amount and quality of sleep.
Exercise. If you are not overtraining, exercise is another great way to help alleviate stress. Through the release of endorphins that occurs because of exercise, we may have greater clarity when we resume our other tasks. Exercise can also help correct posture and increase blood flow, which can lead to decreases in muscular tension.
Nutrition. To give our bodies the best chance to function efficiently, we need to make sure it is fuelled correctly. Consuming a wide variety of whole foods will lead to an increase in the nutrients that the body needs to be able to replenish itself. When we eat better, we feel better and that can reduce the levels of stress that our body endures.
We all have at some point faced stress, and we may face it again in the future. If we can view the negative stress that we encounter as a speed bump, and not a road block, we will be able to continue our journey towards improved health and fitness. A speed bump may slow us down, but by gradually and consistently making small improvements the stress will not derail us.
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