Archive for the tag - stress

Study: Exercise Helps Work-Life Balance.

**EXCLUSIVE** A shirtless Kellan Lutz goes on a rigorous workout by the beach in LA - jogging along the boardwalk before showing off his skills on the ringsEveryone knows that exercise is good for your mind. And most of us know that exercise helps the brain, too. But a fascinating new study shows that exercise can help balance out conflicts in life - like the push and pull of work and family life.

The study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Human Resource Management, surveyed 476 working adults about their exercise behavior and their confidence in handling conflicts at home and in the work place. The adults worked an average of 40 hours per week, and just under a third had at least one child at home.

According to the findings, the participants who exercised regularly experienced a greater feeling of competence. This feeling of competence carried over into other areas of life, including work and home. Russell Clayton, author of the study, noted:

We found that [participants] who exercised felt good about themselves [and] that they could accomplish tough tasks…

In other words, these participants felt empowered to handle and manage the difficult situations and conflicts that most of us encounter in life.

Of course, this study isn’t hard evidence. And it doesn’t necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship between exercise, empowerment and work-life balance. Instead, it’s a good starting point… and another reason not to skip the gym today.

Stressed About Exercising.

298_298_everything-you-know-about-fitness-is-a-lieExercise has a number of great benefits - not the least of which is decreased stress levels. People who workout regularly enjoy less anxiety, fewer symptoms of depression and tend to feel more cheerful.

But what if exercise itself stresses you out or causes anxiety? In some instances, people are ordered to exercise against their will - perhaps by a doctor or healthcare professional. Moreover, some people may view their gym time as another commitment in an already over-booked schedule. Not to mention the discomfort many people experience at the gym gym in the first place. For theses individuals, does the stress caused by exercise negate the stress-reducing benefits of working out?

To find some answers, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder conducted a study to examine the emotional effects of forced and voluntary exercise on anxiety.

For the study, rats were divided up into three groups. Group one was able to exercise whenever they wanted under their own terms. The second group experienced forced exercise that mimicked rats’ general exercise preferences. Group three didn’t exercise.

At the end of six weeks, the rats were exposed to experiences that cause anxiety in rats, and were subsequently placed in a an unfamiliar maze. Anxious rats cowered in a dark corner and refused to explore; the more resilient, well-adjusted rats were more brazen.

According to researchers, the forced exercise group was the least anxious. Despite being forced to exercise under conditions beyond their control, their stress levels seemed to be quite low.

Yes, rats are not humans. And this is just one study. But the results do suggest that though exercise may cause stress and anxiety for some people, the stress-reducing benefits of exercise are much more significant. In other words, even if you’re forced to exercise according to your doctor’s orders and are nervous or uncomfortable about hitting the gym, you still stand to gain some powerful emotional benefits.

Eliminate Holiday Stress with Exercise.

The holidays are officially here - and most peoples’ schedules have gone from busy to downright chaotic. It seems like any free minute is filled with shopping, wrapping gifts, decorating or attending family gatherings.

When things get especially hectic, our priorities tend to shift. And unfortunately, exercise is often one of the first commitments to go.

According to Erica Christ, RD, CDE, an exercise physiologist at Greenwich Hospital’s Weight Loss & Diabetes Center:

When a person is excitable from stress, the burst of energy that you get from exercise can help burn the adrenaline off and calm you down. Exercise allows you time to focus, and gives you a sense of mindfulness that makes the other pieces of your life fall into place.

Moreover, it’s been demonstrated that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps to elevate your mood even more effectively than antidepressant medications.

In other words, exercise makes you feel better, reduces stress and calms you down. And if there’s anything we need this holiday season, it’s just that.

So however busy your holiday schedule may become, give yourself (and the people around you!) the gift of sanity by not cutting back on your exercise commitment.

Cortisol And Lifting: Limit Your Workout Time.

Think you need to spend 10 hours a day in the gym to look like this? Think again. Longer workouts may have the opposite effect.

When you exercise, your body releases hormones. We generally think of hormones like testosterone, growth hormone and insulin. These three hormones are anabolic because they help build tissue.

But there is another hormone that the body releases during exercise. It’s called cortisol. Unlike the previously mentioned anabolic hormones, cortisol is catabolic - meaning it breaks tissue down. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand cortisol and the role it plays in your workout.

The hormone cortisol has the following effects:

  • Reduces protein synthesis.
  • Facilitates the conversion of protein to glucose.
  • Stops tissue growth.

In other words, the effects of cortisol on anyone looking to build muscle are very much undesirable. So, here are some tips you can use to control cortisol:

  1. Shorter training sessions. While we might think more is more when it comes to hitting the gym, keeping workouts short is one of the best ways to control cortisol. Cortisol is released by the body in response to stress, and strength training sessions shorter than 45 - 60 minutes have been demonstrated to minimize this. Similarly, cortisol is best controlled by cardio sessions shorter than 30 - 45 minutes. Going to the gym should be part of your day - not the whole day.
  2. Eat carbs when it counts. When it comes to nutrition, it’s important to recognize the inverse relationship between glycogen and cortisol. As glycogen levels go down, cortisol goes up. When your body runs out of glycogen - which it uses for energy - the increase in cortisol triggers a breakdown of protein (stored as muscle) to be converted to fuel. It’s not a good thing for people trying to build muscle, but it can be avoided by eating first thing in the morning and consuming carbs immediately after a workout. When taking your post-workout protein shake, ensure that you are also getting some simple carbohydrates that can be absorbed quickly.
  3. Manage stress. Since cortisol is released in response to stress, managing your stress levels outside of the gym will be helpful. This may mean setting aside time for meditation, bubble baths or even a massage.
  4. Get enough sleep. Cortisol levels are lowest (and growth hormone levels are highest) in the deepest phase of sleep. Get your required 7 - 8 hours, and do your best to ensure that it’s uninterrupted (i.e., put your phone on silent).
  5. Supplement. A 2001 study by Peters, Anderson & Theron concluded that getting 3 grams of Vitamin C a day helps lower cortisol levels. It’s also believed that supplementing with glutamine may help. If you’re concerned, you may wish to consider these options.

The biggest takeaway is the importance of quality vs. quantity when it comes to your gym time. Spending more time at the gym may actually have the opposite effect that you intend, so keep your workouts shorter, efficient and effective.