Stress and the American Lifestyle
Stress is a common denominator among Americans, regardless of socio-economic status, and according to a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, it is predominately fueled by money. While some Americans are stress out trying to pay their bills and feed their families, others are driven by their quest for the American Dream, working long hours and subjecting themselves to superhuman performance criteria. As trainers, we see the ravages of stress in our clients, manifesting as excess body fat, poor metabolic health and reliance on pharmaceuticals.
Stress and Metabolic Health
When your brain is stimulated by stress, your body releases adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones designed to heighten your awareness and prowess when under attack. Once the imminent threat is gone, your body chemistry returns to a balanced state for optimal metabolic function. However, chronic stress that lingers, such as ongoing stress about money and relationships, causes your body to remain in its flight or fight mode. Ongoing circulation of stress hormones in your blood stream can lead to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of diseases marked by increased insulin resistance, hypertension and inflammation. Stress hormones can also affect your digestive system, leading to the destruction of your gut microbiota.
Stress and Mental Health
Stress takes its toll on mental health in a number of ways, often going hand-in-hand with sleep deprivation and drug and alcohol abuse. Ongoing stress can lead to depression and a feeling of helplessness. It can interfere with decision-making and cognitive function. Over time, unmanaged stress can damage relationships, leading to even more stress.
Stress and Weight Management
One of the side effects of ongoing stress stimulus is fat storage leading to weight gain. The stress hormone Cortisol stimulates appetite to compensate for energy burned during stressful encounters. This stimulus will normally diminish after a stressful episode. However, when stress is ongoing, the urge to eat remains constant. Over time, stress can cause visceral fat stores that pose a danger to health. As trainers, it is difficult to facilitate weight loss when our clients are perpetually stressed out.
Stress Management Strategies
Stress management strategies should be incorporated into personal training protocols. Helping our clients manage their stress will help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It will also help restore digestive and circulatory health, and enable them to perform better, both in the gym and in their daily lives. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qui gong are practices that can help mitigate stress. Deep breathing can be a useful strategy for on-the-spot stress relief.
Understanding more about how stress and other factors affect health will help you become a better fitness practitioner. W.I.T.S. offers solutions to the problems posed by your clients. Lifestyle Fitness Coaching Certification and Certified Personal Trainer are two online courses that will equip you to meet your clients’ needs head-on.
American Psychological Association, 2014: Stress in America: Paying with Our Health
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