Stress, Health & Physical Activity
We all know that stress can take a hard toll on the body. The effects of stress are wide-ranging, with some of the more common physical effects including headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and sleep problems.  Other non-physical effects of stress include irritability, lack of motivation, depression, over- or under-eating, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and social withdrawal. In pregnant women, stress is associated with lower infant birth weight and the potential for developmental issues.
A recent study found that individuals who are obese and overweight may be affected more by stress than those who are normal weight. The study tested the relationship between adiposity and inflammatory markers.  Researchers found that overweight participants placed in repeated stressful situations had increasing amounts of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein in the blood that promotes inflammation. Lean individuals did not demonstrate increasing levels of IL-6 under the same conditions. Obese and overweight individuals are at an increased risk for a variety of diseases that are associated with IL-6, including type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer.
Scientific evidence suggests that inflammation and oxidative and nitrogen stress (O&NS) are key factors in the development of mood and anxiety disorders.  Physical activity also influences some of these same pathways. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory effects and can also be an anti-O&NS factor. By directly affecting the mechanisms that are to blame for some mood and anxiety disorders, exercise plan prescriptions may be an effective strategy for the treatment or prevention of these problems.
Evidence shows that physical activity and other relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can reduce stress and it’s harmful effects. Individuals who experience chronic stress should consider these strategies to help reduce the risk of related health problems, and consult a doctor for additional medical advice.