How Chronic Stress And Cortisol Affect Your Fitness

The changes in the body when you’re under stress serve a purpose. Those changes were particularly important in early times, when the fight or flight response made the difference between survival and death. However, today, people in Lakeland, FL, and across the US now experience chronic stress part of daily living. Stress doesn’t have to be as challenging as a death of a loved one or loss of a job. It can occur during happier situations, such as weddings or preparing to go on vacation. All stressors cause hormonal changes. They increase cortisol levels, can cause permanent changes to the body and affect your overall health and fitness.

The hormones of stress cause changes in your body.

The body and brain do not differentiate between real physical danger and the emotional threats faced in life. Both trigger the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response then sends hormones coursing through the body that are messengers to all parts of the body to prepare for combat or running as fast as possible. Like facial hair or where fat is deposited that is caused by sexual hormones, stress hormones increase heartrate, slow digestion to divert blood flow to the limbs. Cortisol is one of those hormones. Adrenaline and norepinephrine are two others.

Cortisol makes some important changes.

One of the most important changes that cortisol makes is to put more glucose in your bloodstream, which also sends it to the brain and extremities. It also causes another hormone to be released that repairs tissue. Norepinephrine slows the flow of blood to various parts of the body that aren’t necessary for fighting or running away, like the digestive system or urinary tract. The adrenaline released increases blood pressure and pulse rate, while inducing rapid shallow breathing. Everyone has heard stories of people in terrifying situations that are able to commit feats they normally couldn’t do because of adrenaline.

These stress hormones, if not burnt off with running or fighting, cause health issues.

You may develop chronic high blood pressure or emotional issues like anxiety and depression. High levels of chronic stress can also cause digestive issues, since the blood flow is reduced. It can cause headaches, stroke, heart attack, heart disease, muscle tension, pain, insomnia, weight gain and problems with focus, concentration and memory. Your body remains in a constant readiness state that can keep your heart beating faster, blood pressure higher, and blood glucose levels higher.

  • It’s impossible to control outside factors that may cause stress, but very possible to learn how to control your response to those factors. Exercising, meditation, deep breathing techniques and learning how to look at situations differently can help.
  • Stress can cause weight gain, DNA damage which causes premature aging and even lead to tumor growth. Stress shortens the cell’s telomeres that protect the cell’s DNA and allows replication. Exercise lengthens them.
  • Stress can cause tooth damage from chronic grinding and clenching of the teeth. It can cause sleep interruption, which is a time the body and brain repair. It leaves you exhausted and unable to deal with the stressors the following day.
  • One hypothesis on why cortisol, the stress hormone, may cause weight around the midsection comes from the fact that early man may have required the storage of fat during harsh, stressful times. It also may be due to diverted blood flow.

For more information, contact us today at Habitat Health and Fitness

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