Anyone living in 2016 probably knows firsthand that stress can wreak havoc on your physical health, mood, and behavior. Stress can lead to ailments such as headaches, sleep issues, chest pain, anxiety, irritability, and depression, and abuse of food, drugs and alcohol, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Pay attention to these clues stress is making you sick.) In fact, the World Health Organization now considers work-related stress to be the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”
So maybe you can’t eliminate stress from your life—but you can protect yourself from its devastating effects.
A recent study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise looked at how being physically fit impacted people’s experience of a high-stress work situation. The researchers measured fitness levels, cardiovascular-related metrics such as blood pressure, body mass index, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar concentration of 200 Swedish employees. The participants were then asked to report their current perception of stress.
Their answers confirmed the researchers’ suspicions: Those who reported feeling more stressed had higher cardiovascular risks across the board, and those who reported experiencing lower stress were in better physical shape. The researchers could even detect stress differences in participants with high, medium, and low levels of fitness. Professor Markus Gerber of the University of Basel, where the study was conducted, believes the findings are significant because it’s when we’re the most stressed that we tend to exercise the least—but that’s exactly when we should exercise more. The findings can also suggest possible treatments for stress-related disorders.
The CDC recommends that we all engage in some form of exercise—anything that gets our bodies moving—at least two and a half hours per week. We can meet that goal in 10-minute intervals sprinkled throughout the week, by taking our dog for a brisk walk, doing arm curls or squats while watching TV, plus gardening, raking, and shoveling. For a double duty exercise, yoga is great because it not only gets us physically fit but has been shown to help reduce stress. Try this 10-minute yoga routine to tame tension and boost your body’s natural defenses.