It is no secret that these past few months have been extremely stressful for many. The global pandemic has caused many people pain, grief, loss, worry, fear, anxiety and for almost all of us in some kind of way: stress. Whether it be from losing someone close to you, family/ friends illness, illness yourself, loss of work, loss of income, increased work – load, home – schooling and much more stress has heightened for many of us in 2020.
When we become stressed our bodies experience the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and consequently a high state of arousal. When we build up this excess energy but have nowhere for that energy to go (i.e. if you are working a sedentary, office job’ our bodies can remain in this sense of ‘stress’ for hours at a time. While a little stress and excitement is normal, overwhelming levels of this feeling can have detrimental effects on our health and wellbeing, not to mention our mental and emotional health.
How stress can affect our bodies
Central Nervous System
When we become stressed our CNS triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. Our adrenal glands release the stress hormones ‘cortisol’. These hormones elevate the heart rate, speed up the bodies temperature and sends blood rushing to our vital organs. When the perceived fear or stress is gone, our bodies should return back to normal, however if the prominent stressors remain this response will continue. This can contribute to detrimental effects on our long – term health.
Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
When we become stressed we often experience a shortness of breath. This is because our body is working overtime to provide oxygen rich blood to our vital organs. Our heart rate is elevated and blood pressure raised. When you are in this state for too long i.e. your heart is working to fast it can present detrimental risks.
When under stress, our liver produces extra glucose i.e. sugar to give us an energy boost. If we continue to come under constant chronic stress our bodies may not be able to keep pace with this increased and elevated blood sugar. This presents risks such as type 2 diabetes. Stress can also affect the way food travels through our bodies leading to stomach pains, bloating, vomiting and constipation.
When we are tense and stressed our muscles become exactly the same; tight and tense. If we are constantly in this stressed, tense state our muscles may find it hard to keep up and in turn we are left with constant aches and pains.
Over time, if we are constantly stressed our immune system begins to weaken. People under constant stress are more susceptible to virus’ and illness, and it can take far longer to recover from the common cold and flu.
How being regularly active can reduce stress
When stressed, channeling your excess energy into exercise and physical activity can be a great reliever. Experts recommend we should aim to include a minimum of 20 – 30 minutes of exercise most days per week. Exercise not only reduces stress, elevates your mood, improves your health and helps you sleep better, it also releases the hormone ‘endorphins’ which can help you feel relaxed and happy. When you find yourself under regularly, daily stress at home or at work, short, sharp but effective HIIT workouts will be the most beneficial. You will find that even 10 minutes a day can hugely improve your mood and frame of mind. If you are exercising right before bed you may want to focus on more calming, low intensity exercises and stretching, have a read of my blog ‘exercise to help you sleep’ over at our Sleep partners Soak&Sleep website.
What to chose
When it comes to choosing your form of physical activity it is essential to pick something you enjoy. There are hundreds of classes to choose from on the niix app incorporating Pilates, cardio, HIIT, strengthening and toning exercises. You should always keep your exercise routine varied and try and mix up your locations if possible. When you enjoy what you are doing, it will not become a chore. Exercise should be something that you look forward to and a way to take some time for yourself, so make sure you choose wisely and keep it varied and exciting – this is when the results will really show. Exercising with a friend can be a great way to keep it fun and a brilliant way to keep yourself accountable and motivated.
While exercise cannot always remove stress completely, it can be an incredibly valuable tool to relieving excess tension and making you feel much better. Healthy eating, regular movement and activity, valuable relationships and a fun, quality social life can all contribute to relieving stress in your day to day life. Remember, our niix community are always here to motivate and support one another through our fitness journey’s. Head to Facebook to join our community group and become part of our fantastic niix team!
If you are ready to take the plunge and kick – start your exercise journey find out more about niix and join our team!