In light of recent events, it can be agreed that stress levels are high. Whether at work or out for dinner, you may feel the tension radiating from people checking their Facebook feeds or watching the news. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2015, 45 percent of Americans reported being stressed over a five-year period for various reasons, such as finances, politics, relationships and work-life balance. This is almost half of the American population that has increasing stress and very few outlets. It is important that people learn about the causes of stress, the underlying effects of stress and how exercise can be used as a preventative measure to reduce and even eliminate everyday stress.
The technical definition of stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” People typically feel stressed when an external situation is beyond their control, and those who feel stressed have a hard time coping.
Although stress may feel like it only affects your mind, most stress activity occurs at a cellular level. When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is activated, which means you are releasing adrenaline and non-adrenaline neurotransmitters. To manage your stress, cortisol is released, but this can result in a “burnout” if you are releasing too much cortisol. Some common characteristics associated with stress include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, headaches, lack of appetite or binge eating and a weaker immune system. Untreated stress can lead to other complications like depression/anxiety, insomnia, cardiovascular disease and digestive problems, which are stress-induced diseases. From an external standpoint, hair loss and skin problems, aging of the face and weight gain or loss can occur in some people. Stress can affect the body in many different ways. Keep in mind that these symptoms and diseases may not occur in everyone. If you are currently dealing with any of these, seeing a physician or a therapist is recommended.
Stress can be treated in various ways, but exercise is sometimes overlooked. When you exercise, endorphins are released, sleep and relaxation are improved, your chances of socializing increases and your confidence can be boosted. Endorphins are important and helpful because when they are released, they make you feel good and positive. On top of that, your perception of pain can be decreased. Next, sleep is important. Exercising promotes the secretion of adenosine, which helps improve sleep quality. Insomnia can be improved by about 10 minutes! Better sleep leads to increased mental sharpness, better daily performance and a healthier mind.
The combination of sleeping better, feeling good and improving your social presence are all great reasons to exercise for stress prevention!
Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer who trains out of 12th Street Gym. She is an energetic and positive person, who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness.