Exercise, Relaxation, and the Stress Hormone

We have all heard it: “eat less and move more”, or “you need to increase your exercise routine”, or “diet and exercise”, etc.. etc..

What does it all mean? What are they really saying?

The Western lifestyle we all tend to lead, which includes things like deadlines and work stress, home stress from running our children from one function to another, fast food eating on the run, and traffic jams—all topped off with breathing in and being exposed to all kinds of toxic pollution, where does this leave us?

Our bodies are designed to deal with acute stress—fight or flight. In acute stress (for example we come across a bear in the woods), our adrenal glands secrete enormous amounts of cortisol (the stress hormone) which allows us to have super-human strength to either run from the bear or fight it. Once the bear is gone, the cortisol levels fall, and we are back to normal. However, under conditions of chronic stress (the Western lifestyle) our bodies are tricked into thinking we are running from the bear ALL THE TIME! Therefore, cortisol levels remain elevated which wreaks havoc on our bodies.

How to deal with it? Exercise reduces stress and lowers the cortisol level by promoting relaxation. I don’t necessarily mean sweating it out in the gym 3 times a week either—but simply take time for a relaxing walk in the evening, find 15 minutes a day for meditation or “quiet time”, or try Yoga. It has been shown that frequent, short periods of quiet relaxation can substantially improve cortisol levels, and therefore relieve overall stress. There are also a variety of OTC nutraceuticals and supplements designed to help the body deal with cortisol and stress.

Try building relaxation techniques and exercise into your routine and over time you will be healthier and feel less stressed, and feel free to call your Warren’s Drug pharmacist for tips and recommendations on how to manage stress.