The Importance of Exercising More to Stress Less

Why is it important to reduce stress?

Experiencing psychological stress is common. Stress is caused by the perceived inability to cope with any given situation, causing a physical response in the body (e.g. increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate) in the form of a ‘flight or fight’ response. It is important to reduce and control stress, due to the adverse health risks caused by chronic stress and the toll it takes on physiological health, psychological health and general well-being.

How can exercise help to reduce stress?

Exercise offers a multitude of health and wellbeing benefits. Exercise can significantly reduce anxiety caused by excessive stress[1]. Anxiety sensitivity, which outlines how frequently you are affected by stress-induced anxiety, can be decreased with low-moderate intensity exercise[2]. Furthermore, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, a group of hormones responsible for inducing feelings of euphoria and happiness which can positively improve mental health[3].

The health conditions associated with chronic stress can be quite serious, this emphasises the role of exercise in reducing stress and improving health.

Health conditions associated with chronic stress:

Unintended Weight Changes

Chronic stress is responsible for causing negative emotion and the stimulation of insulin and glucocorticoid release, the activity of these hormones result in an increased craving for calorie rich foods[4]. This can lead to rapid weight gain and even obesity with prolonged chronic stress. Weight loss achievable with dieting, exercise and even medication. Weight loss treatments can be sourced from a reliable online pharmacy such as Pharmica.

There is also an increased risk that unintended weight loss may be a result of chronic stress. A highly active metabolic rate, reduced digestion functionality and lessened appetite is associated with being in a high stress state[5].

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is common in both men and women that experience chronic stress. For men, the onset of erectile dysfunction (ED) is more likely[6]. It is important for men experiencing ED to alter their lifestyle to reduce the level of stress in their life. ED treatments are available to treat ED if immediate stress relief is not viable. For women, stress can contribute to difficulty concentrating and relaxing, which in turn can affect sexual sensation and arousal[7].

Skin Problems and Hair Loss

Chronic stress is linked with the onset of skin conditions such as eczema[8]. Furthermore, hair loss can be a result of high stress, however, it is suggested that this may be due to more traumatic psychological stressors rather than daily stress triggers[9]. Hair loss can be easily treated with effective treatments from a reliable source, such as Pharmica Online Pharmacy.

Burnout Syndrome

Burnout syndrome is a state of exhaustion caused by excessive psychological, physical and emotional overload[10]. Burnout Syndrome is highly common in athletes that train to intensely, this can hinder performance and negatively affect well-being. The same can happen with overworking or being constantly exposed to high stress situations, prolonged, severe psychological stress combined with a lack of sleep or fatigue can lead to the onset of burnout syndrome. Sufficient rest and changes to your lifestyle may be essential to ensure effective recovery following burnout.

Mental Health Problems

Psychiatric diseases such as depression and anxiety are associated with stress-induced dysfunction of the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the section of the brain responsible for emotion and cognition regulation[11]. Stress induced mental health decline can be treated with counselling and stress reduction exercises.

What is the recommended level of exercise to reduce stress levels?

Stress can be reduced with low-moderate intensity exercise form as little as 20 minutes per week[12]. For more significant stress reduction results, exercise for 30 minutes per day for 4/5 days per week is recommended. The type of exercise should be enjoyable, realistic and challenging. It is advisable to begin exercise at a low intensity before increasing intensity or frequency to avoid excessive fatigue and injury. It may be manageable to reduce the frequency of training but increase the intensity to accommodate varying daily routines.

It is important to be well equipped for exercise to rescue the risk of injury and enhance enjoyment and performance. New equipment and exercise tools such as clothing, garments, digital devices and applications are all effective motivators to help you commit to a new exercise schedule.

What other techniques are effective at reducing stress?

There are a range of alternative strategies to reduce stress[13]. These stress reducing methods may offer an effective alternative to exercise or possibly be used in combination:

  • Lifestyle changes – If a specific stress trigger is causing you to experience chronic stress you may need to implement change. Being proactive is essential to make positive change.
  • Meditation – A practical strategy that can be highly effective. Meditation involves deep relaxation to calm the mind and body. It can take only 5-10 minutes, however, when starting out meditating for longer is recommended.
  • Counselling – Therapy is also highly recommended. Stress induced anxiety and depression may be effectively treated with counselling.
  • Medication – Offers effective symptomatic relief from stress induced conditions.

Sources

  1. Jazaieri, H., Goldin, P.R., Werner, K., Ziv, M. and Gross, J.J., 2012. A randomized trial of MBSR versus aerobic exercise for social anxiety disorder. Journal of clinical psychology, 68(7), pp.715-731.
  2. Smits, J.A., Berry, A.C., Rosenfield, D., Powers, M.B., Behar, E. and Otto, M.W., 2008. Reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise. Depression and anxiety, 25(8), pp.689-699.
  3. Alikhani, A.H., Molaie, M. and Amiri, S., 2015. The effects of exercise on the mental health. Int. J. Adv. Biol. Biom. Res, 3(3), pp.244-250.
  4. Razzoli, M., Pearson, C., Crow, S. and Bartolomucci, A., 2017. Stress, overeating, and obesity: Insights from human studies and preclinical models. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 76, pp.154-162.
  5. Kivimäki, M., Head, J., Ferrie, J.E., Shipley, M.J., Brunner, E., Vahtera, J. and Marmot, M.G., 2006. Work stress, weight gain and weight loss: evidence for bidirectional effects of job strain on body mass index in the Whitehall II study. International journal of obesity, 30(6), pp.982-987.
  6. Langer, R., Langer, B., Mahajan, R., Sharma, E., Gupta, R.K. and Kumari, R., 2017. Exploring psychosocial issues in patients of erectile dysfunction: a study in tertiary care setting. Int J Med Sci and Public Health, 6, pp.1050-56.
  7. Hamilton, L.D. and Meston, C.M., 2013. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(10), pp.2443-2454.
  8. Mochizuki, H., Lavery, M.J., Nattkemper, L.A., Albornoz, C., Valdes Rodriguez, R., Stull, C., Weaver, L., Hamsher, J., Sanders, K.M., Chan, Y.H. and Yosipovitch, G., 2019. Stress, itch, and scratch. British Journal of Dermatology, 180(4), pp.e109-e109.
  9. Bergfeld, W., 2009. Diffuse hair loss: its triggers and management. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 76(6), p.361.
  10. Plieger, T., Melchers, M., Montag, C., Meermann, R. and Reuter, M., 2015. Life stress as potential risk factor for depression and burnout. Burnout Research, 2(1), pp.19-24.
  11. Plieger, T., Melchers, M., Montag, C., Meermann, R. and Reuter, M., 2015. Life stress as potential risk factor for depression and burnout. Burnout Research, 2(1), pp.19-24.
  12. NHS. 2008. Physical activity reduces stress.
  13. Mayo Clinic. 2019. Healthy Lifestyle. Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress.