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All Blown Up: Stress and the Immune Response

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Inflame Game
Personal training clients tend to be busy people who strive to be their best at everything. Setting the bar high is all well and good, but perpetually making demands on yourself can be stressful. We all experience a little stress from day to day, but when you are chronically stressed, you may be setting yourself up for serious health problems. One way the body responds to stress is inflammation.
System Overload
Inflammation is a response from your immune system to the “high alert” signals coming from your sympathetic nervous system. When you are stressed out, your body chemistry changes to prepare you for “fight or flight.” Immediate physical changes include pupil dilation, increased sweating, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. Once the stress abates, your body reverts to its pre-stress chemical balance. However, when stress becomes a chronic state, it takes a physical toll on your health. Chronic stress and inflammation are credited with abdominal obesity, reduced insulin sensitivity, elevated cholesterol and heart disease.
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Feeding the Monster
Stress can come from many sources. Work deadlines, financial obligations, family and relationship issues and a full and busy schedule can all play a part. A stressful lifestyle often includes sleep deprivation, excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol, irregular eating patterns, and inadequate physical activity. The consequences of these behaviors can cascade into a downward spiral that creates even more stress.

Finding Balance
Personal training is ideally suited to the chronically stressed because sessions are scheduled and accountability is built in. In addition to exercise and nutritional guidance, trainers should encourage stress-management strategies. Meditation, yoga, tai chi and other mind-body activities are recommended to mitigate stress. Journaling can be an effective tool for chronicling stressful situations and identifying patterns and behaviors that produce negative outcomes.
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Resources

Helping your clients manage stress should be a fundamental consideration for any successful trainer. To learn more about stress management and lifestyle coaching, check out W.I.T.S. Lifestyle Fitness Coaching and Personal Trainer Certification Courses, both available online.

References and Credits
Circulation: Stress and Metabolic Syndrome
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2634.full

Harvard School of Public Health: Immunometabolic Response, Stress and Metabolic Diseases

Immunometabolic Response, Stress and Metabolic Diseases

Tamashiro KL, et al (2011). Chronic Stress, Metabolism and Metabolic Syndrome. Stress, 14(5):468-74
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21848434

*Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

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