Stress may be the most important health issue of the 21st century. Today, everything pushes us to become quicker, more efficient and, consequently, more stressed as well.
But what stress is actually?
In a medical or biological context, stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension (1). Stressors can be external (e.g. from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (e.g. illness, or from a medical procedure).
On the short term, stress can be beneficial for the body as it supports an adequate and quick response to challenges (e.g. protection from a virus, slowing down the metabolism if the body needs to keep the energy for functioning etc..).
However, when stress becomes regular and lasts for a long time, it becomes harmful for the organism as it can disturb various systemic processes, such as digestive, neural, or cardiac systems, but also provoke anxiety and depression.
As described in the WHO report Health and Development Through Physical Activity and Sport, sport and physical activity, in general, are proven health-enhancers. Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes, and helps to prevent/reduce hypertension and osteoporosis among other health benefits (2). It is even suggested that physical activity can improve cognitive function in patients with dementia (3).
There are some complex internal processes through which the physical activity influences our psychological state:
Evidence supports the idea that those who are fit and active are less likely to develop depression (2). Indeed, there is evidence that undertaking regular leisure-time exercise is associated with reduced incidence of future depression and most of this protective effect occurs at low levels of exercise, regardless of intensity (3). Moreover, physical activity is proven to be an effective therapy for reducing symptoms of depression (4).
Physical activity increases your level of endorphins, “feel-good” neurotransmitters (5). No need to run a marathon to feel this effect, any exercise done for 10-15 min already helps.
Exercise is increasingly recognized as an intervention that can override the negative effects of stress and even reduce cognitive decline (6). Moreover, evidence shows that exercise increases the brain resistance against oxidative stress, preventing it from yearly ageing (7).
Several study findings suggest that people who practice exercise have fewer depressive symptoms compared with those who don’t. The biggest study to date in this domain demonstrated that people who have a regular physical activity showed 43% fewer days of poor mental health per month, compared to people who do not exercise (8).
As you can see, there are several beneficial anti-stress effects for our body from physical activity. Also, the effect remains positive only if the person practices in a reasonable quantity. An exaggerated amount of sport will in contrary create additional negative stress for the organism (9). So, take it easy.
Of course, it may not be easy to introduce additional exercise in your daily routine, but we would like to show you some tips that can support it:
- Discuss with your doctor beforehand: If you have not exercised for some time and you would like to start a new exercise routine, you may want to consult your doctor beforehand, in order to avoid any health issues.
- Do an activity you love and choose the schedule that suits you: the most important is to pick an activity that you enjoy and the time that suits you the most to practice it. If you force yourself to do something you do not like, at one point you won’t be able to stick to it. The goal is to practice activity on a regular basis, so choose something that you can enjoy. The choice is immense: from cardio-intense activities like running to more relaxed ones, like yoga/Pilates or stretching. You can also just choose to walk instead of taking the bus or take your dog in the parc for a run; everything is good as long as it allows you to move regularly.
- Set achievable goals: Do not be too strict with yourself. The goal, again, is to make it a long-term project and a part of your life. Stay realistic and adopt a slower step-by-step approach, rather than having too many expectations, being disappointed by not achieving them and abandon very quickly.
- Find support: A gym/sports buddy is always a good motivation for the commitment to your workout. You do not want to let him/her down, do you?
At Sunstar, this month, we are promoting the importance of movement for health through our monthly health challenge in our social media profiles. Also, through brands such as Braking, with mobility products, we encourage our consumers to stay active to improve their quality of life. Indeed, for us, movement is an essential part of our holistic health vision, together with nutrition, oral health and beauty and environment.