Stress is no new term to us. We’ve all experienced it. To the extreme all nighters during exam week in college, to the daily hassle of traffic during your commute, stress can lurk up on us at any point in time. Everyone copes with stress differently, but it can affect people in very similar ways.
So, what exactly is stress? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, we define stress as the brain’s response to a demand. While there are many reasons why the body triggers this response, it is often because of change, positive or negative. And not all stress is bad. Animals have a stress response that can actually save their lives in certain situations. The hormones and nerve chemicals released during stress prepares the animal for facing a threat or fleeing to safety. But, with chronic stress, the same nerve chemicals can suppress body functions you need immediately for survival. Severe problems can occur if stress goes on for too long.
Related: How Exercise Can Reduce Stress
Stress can take a toll your body mentally, and physically. To discuss the ways that stress affects our fitness, I chatted with two experts. Dr. Mona Morstein is a Naturopathic Physician and the owner of Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions. She explained that there are side effects to stress, including weight gain. The most studied reason for weight gain during stress is because of the release of two particular hormones called cortisol and epinephrine. When these adrenal hormones are put out, it can cause insulin to take glucose into our cells and turn it to fat. Thus causing weight gain.
I also discussed the concepts of stress and weight gain with Debi Silber, the President of Lifestyle Fitness Inc. and founder of TheMojoCoach. As a dietitian, personal trainer, and Whole Health coach, Debi has seen just how tolling stress can be on the waistline.
Though, there are ways to cope with stress. Regular exercise, even just 30 minutes of gentle walking a day can boost your mood. The NIMH also suggests to schedule regular times for relaxing and healthy. There are many forms of stress coping programs out there which incorporate yoga, meditation, tai chi, or other more gentle exercises.