Stress is the process of responding to an environmental demand that seems threatening. Stress over prolonged time can impact both your physical and mental health because it triggers natural responses in your body’s chemistry and function.
What happens physically when your body senses a threat?
- Your autonomic nervous system places the body on alert
- Stress hormones, adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol, are released by the adrenal cortex
- Your heart begins to beat more rapidly
- Your metabolism is stimulated
- An increased amount of oxygenated blood is sent to large muscle groups
- Blood sugars rise
- If stressors continue and these systems remain activated for extended periods of time, major organs including the heart and brain may not function properly
What happens mentally during extended periods of stress?
Stress can have a negative impact on your quality of life, including your:
- Psychological wellbeing (happiness)
- Ability to think and process information
- Social environment and behavior
Extended periods of stress can cause anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia.
Breaking a sweat can make you feel good
Exercise and aerobic activities can help reduce stress and improve your health in more ways than one.
Using large muscle groups in repetitive movement like walking, running, biking and swimming produces stress-reducing benefits because it increases the rate that your body uses oxygen and improves blood flow. Physical activity also increases the production of endorphins. Endorphins are a group of hormones that play a key role in the function of the central nervous system and produce a feeling of well-being. The body’s natural pain reducers, endorphins are produced in several areas of the body in response to certain stimuli including stress, fear and pain. The endorphins interact with brain cell receptors responsible for blocking pain and controlling emotion.
Three basics of healthy living contribute to less stress
- Eat a healthy diet of fresh, non-processed food.
- Engage in regular exercise and physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Use relaxation techniques to calm your mind and body.
Join us today at Valley Fitness Center for our Saturday morning Yoga class to help with relaxation, or join one of our group fitness classes. Managing your stress can help your physical and psychological well-being and can help prevent complications in the future. By including exercise and physical activity in your daily life, you can improve your mood, your energy and your sleep.
For more information about stress-reducing classes and opportunities for getting more active, visit valleymed.org/fitness.