Because there's no way to keep stressors out of our lives, I'm a big fan not only of quick stress relievers that can neutralize one's response to stress, but of other ways to build resilience to stress. That's why this new study caught my eye.
Researchers looked at different types of athletes: 'elite sportsmen', 'amateur sportsmen', and 'untrained men', and compared their responses to stress. More specifically, they examined salivary free cortisol, heart rate, and psychological responses to psychosocial stress. What they found was that elite sportsmen showed significantly lower cortisol, heart rate, and state anxiety responses compared with untrained subjects. This research is in line with previous research, and shows that trained athletes--those who exercise often--experience less physiological reactivity to stress. Simply put, physical activity can work as a buffer to stress and help build overall resilience to stress.
This is good news for several reasons: exercise is already known as a great way to relieve stress that you're already feeling. It brings positive feelings (from endorphins), and a physical and psychological release (it's a good way to blow off steam, and provides a good distraction). It's good for your overall health, longevity, and even physical attractiveness, which can be linked to positive feelings about oneself. So it's nice that something that already brings so many benefits can also be used to build overall resilience toward stress.
Looking for good ways to work exercise into your day, or wondering about the best exercises for stress relief? Here are some resources you can use right away:
- The Benefits of Exercise for Stress Relief
- Exercises That Work Well for Stress Relief
- Exercise Options for Busy People
- More Important Information on Resilience
Rimmele U, Seiler R, Marti B, Wirtz PH, Ehlert U, Heinrichs M. The level of physical activity affects adrenal and cardiovascular reactivity to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. October 13, 2008.
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