Stress hits all of us in different ways and for different reasons. Of course, it is beneficial to pinpoint the stressors in our lives, but even more helpful is finding coping mechanisms that will help keep us from killing whatever sorry soul steps foot in our paths when we are at our limits.
Thankfully, unlike some issues out there, stress is one that we do have some control over. Through nutrition, exercise and even prayer and meditation, we can reduce the adverse effect that stress has on our bodies. In fact, in a recent study published in the Public Library of Science, there is evidence that the way we exercise can either positively or negatively affect our stress levels. According to the study, simply exercising at a vigorous level for 14 minutes three times per day may dramatically lessen the negative results of stress.
The study labels exercise as a type of physical stress that is difficult for the body to handle, just like mental stress. Both stressors promote added adrenaline and cortisol production through the adrenal glands. Overproduction of these hormones can be dangerous and even fatal.
There is no denying the health benefits of regular exercise in terms of heart health, reducing cholesterol and, of course, losing weight. In the realm of stress, however, it appears to be more important to limit the length of intense training, but still take part in this type of vigorous activity in short spurts. Of course, exercise is a good thing, but like all good things, if you get too much it could turn into a bad thing. Short, intense workouts put enough physical demand on your body to generate positive results without adding more stress to the body. They also increase metabolism while promoting muscle-building.
Of course, everyone is different. Some people may routinely run eight miles in an hour six times per week and feel great. For the rest of us, I think these findings can help us get (and stay) energized. Lopez suggests doing an interval type training, where you work out at a demanding pace for 30-60 seconds and follow this up with a more routine pace for the next 60 seconds or longer. He says to do this seven to 10 times in the place of your standard cardio workout for increased energy and decreased stress.
Whatever coping mechanism you choose to manage your stress, just make sure to make use of it. Maybe your body is not ready for 14 minutes of rigorous activity three times daily. If that is the case, take a walk out in nature. Clear your head. Do what it takes to be able to take ownership of your feelings and actions.
As for me, I think this idea is definitely worth a try. Maybe I can move from "stressed out" to "energized" by after a few weeks of this new type of workout. If nothing else, at least the staff at my gym won't have to worry about peeling my exhausted body off of the treadmill like all of the times in the past when I have over-exerted myself.
Public Library of Science