|Healthy Over 50|
|Your Health Profile|
|Body Mass Index|
|Body Fat Calc.|
|Herbs and Spices|
|News & Views|
|Topics by Index|
|Sites of Interest|
|Tell Your Story|
Can't seem to lose weight? You may need to reduce stress. Everyone is aware that inactivity and eating too much of the wrong kinds of food has a significant impact on the world's obesity crisis. What is not as well known is that chronic stress can make weight loss next to impossible. It also contributes to weight gain.
A certain amount of stress is natural and normal. The body is equipped to handle it. When a hunter is confronted by a bear on a hunting trip, his body automatically reacts. "[the] pituitary gland...steps up its release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (SCTH), which signals other glands to produce additional hormones...this alarm tells your adrenal glands...to release a flood of stress hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones--including cortisol and adrenaline--focus your concentration, speed your reaction time, and increase your strength and agility..." (Stress: Why You Have It and How It Hurts Your Health; Article.)
Our hunter immediately faces a fight-or-flight syndrome. The rush of adrenaline and rapidly pounding heart give him an almost supernatural ability to run for his life. However it is highly unlikely that he'll meet with a bear every five minutes. When the crisis is over after having successfully escaped, the hunter's body slowly returns to normal.
Our society is such that many of us are confronted with one stressful situation after another. They are constant, or come in such rapid succession, that the body doesn't get an opportunity to recover. This is called chronic stress. Long work hours, 2 or 3 jobs, little or no sleep, and family responsibilities can all work together to keep the body in a constant state of stress. Exercise can be used to reduce stress.
Cortisol is a hormone that is carried in the adrenal glands. Its levels are usually highest in the morning and lowest at night. Among the benefits of cortisol are: 1) quick energy burst 2) heightened memory functions 3) increased immunity 4) reduced sensitivity to pain and 6) assists in maintaining homeostasis (body in balance.)
However, prolonged levels of stress turns beneficial cortisol into a harmful nightmare. Long periods of cortisol in the bloodstream produces: 1) impaired cognitive performance 2) suppressed thyroid function 3) blood sugar imbalances 4) reduced bone density 5) a reduction in lean body mass (muscle) 6) elevated blood pressure and, possibly worse of all, 7) an increase in abdominal fat.
Abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, is the most dangerous fat of all due to its location (Go here to learn more about this type of fat.) You may need to reduce stress as well as make nutritional changes to combat it.
Stress, along with inactivity and a bad nutritional diet, have to be addressed in any weight loss effort. Enter exercise. Before I began bodybuilding I jogged. This was in the early to mid 70s. Whatever frustrations, concerns, or stressful situations that I had were consciously channeled into my jogging. It was very effective. Mind you, I didn't jog to reduce stress. I jogged for fitness. But jogging was very helpful in reducing my tension.
I now reduce stress through weight lifting. Although exercise is not the only effective method for diffusing stress, it is a side benefit which means that it can be used alone. This means that any exercise program can be used by itself to combat chronic stress. Exercise though is not an option for a healthy lifestyle. You must incorporate it into your daily life. Other stress relievers such as yoga, meditation, or even listening to music can be used along with exercise if desired.
Above I noted that stress can reduce or suppress thyroid function. An underactive thyroid is called hypothyroidism . Stress is a contributing factor for hypothyroidism.
Exercise is essential in any effort to lose weight. And as we have seen previously, it addresses the issue of stress. It doesn't matter what form the exercise takes. Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, lift weights--get active. Our time sensitive
culture and plates filled with activities and jobs which compete for your attention makes stress inevitable. How you react to it, and being able to successfully channel it is important.