The Impact of Stress on Working Out
Some people say that stress really motivates them to get to the gym or on the treadmill. And that may be the case.
In fact, exercise can be a great way to ease stress levels after a busy and demanding day.
But do you know the true impact of stress on working out? It might surprise you.
The Negative Effects of Stress on Working Out
Even if that rigorous run or lifting weights leaves you feeling calmer from the endorphin rush, you might not consider how the stress was affecting your body while you were in the midst of working out.
First of all, stress increases muscle tension. It also negatively impacts motor control. Both of these are recipes for injury. And despite the release you might experience after exercising, a study found that regular exercisers who report high stress levels show less improvement and progress than those who aren’t stressed.
But wait. There’s more. Stress during your workout also does the following:
1. Challenges Concentration
The areas of the brain that deal with short-term, long-term, and working memory (processing multiple pieces of information simultaneously) take a direct hit from stress. In addition, chronic levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can flood the brain to wreak havoc with hand-eye coordination and even cause blurry vision.
All of these challenges make it more difficult to perform your workout and can cause faster mental and physical fatigue. Your ability to concentrate will be diminished and you run a higher risk of injury.
2. Hinders Recovery
Do you typically feel sore after working out? That’s normal. It’s almost a rite of passage in some regard – a way to know that you’ve reached another level. A tough workout combined with stress, however, will leave you feeling even sorer. And for longer.
Along with increased tension in the muscles, stress zaps the body of valuable resources and leaves you feeling depleted. And that’s BEFORE you workout. Once you’ve taxed your already stressed body with a workout, the tank is empty. Even the reserve tank has been drained.
The body has to work extra hard to recover.
3. Increases Cortisol
To be clear, cortisol is not enemy #1. A slight increase in cortisol can prove to be beneficial to sports performance. But the level of cortisol experienced during chronic stress is counter to this.
What’s more, if you’re working out and dieting in an attempt to lose weight, the excess levels of cortisol from stress will sabotage this. It can lead to packing on extra weight around the midsection and increase food cravings.
You Don’t Need to Skip Your Workout Though…
It comes down to listening to your body.
On days where stress has drained you of energy, you may do well to take a rest day. But if you feel like moving would still be beneficial, there is a middle way.
By mixing up your style of training, you’ll actually calm your nervous system rather than continue to accelerate it. It might be something as simple as going for a walk or hike. Or maybe taking a swim.
You could also try calmer and more mindful strengthening activities such as yoga and Pilates.
Calming the Nervous System with Pilates
Many folks come to Pilates looking for a ways to be more in tune with their bodies while building strength and increasing flexibility and stability in a safe way. And it does just that.
But both the cardio and strength elements in Pilates are also proven to boost brain function. They counter stress by actually strengthening the part of the brain responsible for cognitive function.
Pilates also decreases cortisol levels while increasing endorphins so practitioners feel calm, relaxed, and better able to manage stress. At the end of the day, in its ability to help practitioners understand their capabilities and limitations (and then honor them) Pilates is the ultimate in self-care.
Looking to De-Stress with Pilates?
Obviously, the impact of stress on working out is detrimental. And even though stress is in the mind, it’s not something you can simply will away.
But by combining your current workout regimen with an empowering practice like Pilates, as well as additional mindfulness techniques, you’ll find you can better manage your stress.
So contact us today to get started on your Pilates journey. We look forward to hearing from you.