Can’t Outrun Your Stress

Posted: March 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The more and more I interact with the clients the more and more I continue to see stress as a major role player in the degradation of health and body composition. When I sit down and talk with people I ask them what they do to manage their stress and most reply with “working out.” Don’t get me wrong exercise is great and can definitely play a major role in helping us recover from the stress response, but exercise is also a stressor!

Just picture the angry person sprinting away on the treadmill. Do you think this is doing more good or harm? In my opinion this is doing more harm. To simplify things, our body has a checks and balances system within it. One of these systems is made up of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system acts when we get stressed. It is our “fight or flight” response and gets us ready for action. It does this by dilating and relaxing arteries to increase blood flow to muscles, increases veinous return of blood to the heart which creates a recoil in the heart to spurt more blood (this raises blood flow and blood pressure), and our body will stop devoting time and attention to systems that are not necessary in that exact moment. These systems include our immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, etc. If we are under chronic stress our immune system cannot fight off foreign invaders, we can suffer from IBS, and we can also suffer from low libido. Sitting in traffic, worrying about money, and even exercise all elicit a response from our sympathetic nervous system.

Our parasympathetic nervous system does the exact opposite. It slows our heart rate, returns our blood pressure to normal, and turns on all other systems necessary for maintaining long term health. Hypnosis, meditation, and deep breathing exercises are examples of ways we can turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. When we encounter stressors we need to counter them with things that will elicit the opposite response and not further the same one. Increased stress leads to increased inflammation and this leads to disease and obesity. This is a topic I will talk about at great length in upcoming posts. Our fight or flight response has not adapted to our modern day world and I believe this is a major underlying cause of the obesity epidemic we are currently facing. Stay tuned for more.

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