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December 21, 2023 | Life in Balance | admin

How Stress Can Impair Your Workouts!

In this article, we will discuss different ways stress can undermine your fitness goals. A workout can be a great way to relax after a long day at work but thinking about that bad meeting with your boss might make your workout less productive according to a new study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology which found that mental burnout had a big effect on how well people did physically. Therefore, if you always feel like you have too much to do, your next workout should focus on highintensity stress management instead of crunches or curls.

1. Stress impairs Working Memory:

Stress has an impact on the part of your brain that is responsible for both short-term and long-term memory, as well as working memory [used when you need to consider multiple pieces of information at the same time].

When your working memory is impaired, as it is with chronic stress, even the simplest tasks can become difficult. For instance, thinking, perceiving, and evaluating all require processing power in your brain, much like a computer; however, the more stress there is in the background, the slower your processing speed will be.

Consequently, whether you’re an elite athlete or just going to a regular exercise class, if your brain is struggling to process information, you’ll get tired faster—both mentally and physically.

2. Stress impairs Concentration:

Stress has been shown to have a negative impact on almost every aspect of human cognition and perception, including concentration and mental focus. When you’re stressed, you’re preoccupied with the source of your stress (internal focus), which means you have fewer resources available for the task at hand (external focus).

Take, for example, golf. A successful game relies on accurate perception and the ability to pay attention. However, if stress begins to interfere with your ability to focus, your golf game will suffer. There is probably no better example of this than Tiger Woods, whose PGA ranking plummeted as a result of his scandalous affair and the ensuing media frenzy—undoubtedly related to the significant stress he was under at the time.

3. Stress impairs Motor coordination:

Stress has been shown in studies to impair motor control and coordination by interfering with information processing in the cerebellum, the area of your brain responsible for these functions.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, even a single bout of acute stress alters information processing in the cerebellum. Stress is frequently accompanied by increased muscle tension, which can impair physical performance, put you at risk of injury, and slow tissue repair.

4. Stress impairs Vision:

Stress can even impair your vision and perception. High levels of stress have been linked to everything from twitching eyes to temporary blindness. Because your eyes and brain work so closely together, high cortisol levels have a negative impact on how you see things and process visual cues.

When you are under chronic stress, your adrenaline level remains elevated, which can lead to eye pressure, distorted or blurred vision, tunnel vision, and eye strain. When you are stressed, your pupils dilate and the muscles around your face tighten, causing the blood vessels that supply your eyes to constrict. As a result, eye strain, headaches, and decreased visual acuity result.

5. Stress impairs Your Fitness Progress:

As Finnish researchers recently discovered, if your stress level is high, you may not achieve your fitness goals as quickly. According to them, stress can lower your VO2 max, affecting how well your body can utilize oxygen during exercise.

When you stick to a gym schedule, your muscles, heart, and lungs adapt over time, making you fitter and stronger. Experts measure this improvement in fitness by testing your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen your body uses during a workout. When Finnish researchers followed 44 people starting a new cycling regimen, those with the highest stress levels improved the least in VO2 max over a two-week period, despite doing the same workouts as everyone else.

6. Stress impairs Exercise Recovery Speed:

Exercise recovery is slowed by stress. According to research, this is due to higher levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. A Yale study involving undergraduate students shows that people with chronic stress need more time to recover from a single high-impact exercise session: “An hour after the workout using heavy leg weights, the students with the lowest stress levels had regained 60 percent of their leg strength, whereas the high-stress students had regained only 38 percent.”

Researchers attributed the difference to higher levels of cortisol and other stress chemicals, which affect your body’s rate of repair. They also speculated that the highstress students may have gotten insufficient sleep, ate poorly, and generally neglected basic self-care, which would have jeopardized their bodies’ repair processes.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that people who were more stressed felt more tired and sore 24 hours after a hard workout than people who were less stressed.

These and other studies confirm that your mental state influences microscopic cellular processes that repair damage in your body. As a result, if you’re stressed, your recovery from exercise will take longer because you have so little in your tank for repair and recovery. In the words of Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine: The Power of Positive Thinking, “Our bodies understand how to repair broken proteins, kill cancer cells, slow aging, and fight infection. They can even heal ulcers, remove skin lesions, and repair broken bones. But here’s the kicker: if you’re stressed, those natural self-repair mechanisms don’t work!”

7. Stress increases Your Chances of Injuries:

Another disadvantage of working out under stress is that you are more likely to injure yourself. According to research, a high level of major life stress (moving, divorce, death of a family member, etc.) or a high level of daily annoyances (getting a flat tire or a speeding ticket, losing your cell phone, etc.) can increase your risk of exercise injury. This is believed to be due to cognitive deficits and increased muscle tension.

8. Stress impairs Weight Loss:

Stress is well known to increase cardiovascular risk, but it can also cause belly fat and weight gain. Stress alters the way fat is deposited due to the specific hormones and other chemicals produced by your body, the most important of which is cortisol. When your cortisol levels remain elevated as a result of stress, your body stores more energy as fat.

In a Kaiser Permanente study, 18 researchers assigned 472 obese adults to a diet and exercise plan designed to help them lose 10 pounds. The participants’ stress levels were first determined. Researchers discovered that participants who were under the most stress were the least likely to achieve their weight loss goals. What’s more, participants who became more stressed during the study gained weight rather than lost it. The participants’ weight loss was cut in half by combining poor sleep (less than six hours per night) with increased stress.

9. Stress impairs Motivation:

Yale researchers examined all of the studies on stress and exercise habits they could find. They revealed that people under stress slack off on physical activity and spend more time sedentary. Participants in one of the studies were 21% less likely to work out regularly during times of stress, and 32% less likely to stick to their fitness schedule over the next four years.

The same conclusion was reached in a 2014 study in Sports Medicine—stress is likely to thwart your efforts to be physically active. This phenomenon was especially noticeable in older adults and those who were new to their fitness regimens.

It’s especially unfortunate if you don’t exercise when your stress level rises, because exercise is an excellent stress-reduction tool.

10. Stress impairs Your Resilience:

Most people feel less resilient to life’s normal ups and downs when they are stressed. You are more vulnerable to the psychological effects of poor performance and mood swings when you are stressed, and you are more likely to experience discouragement and fluctuating self-esteem. All of this has the potential to derail your fitness goals.

This emotional vulnerability is most likely due to the effects of stress on the brain—stress literally shrinks it! Yale researchers used MRI scans to assess brain volume in 103 healthy adults who had experienced major life stresses in the previous year. They came to the conclusion that major stress, when combined with minor irritations, shrinks your “gray matter,” which affects emotions, self-control, and heart rate. As a result, this could have psychological ramifications in nearly every aspect of your life, including your efforts to improve your health and fitness.

Tools and Techniques for Reducing Stress:

When you’re consumed by stress, it’s difficult to stay committed to your goals, which is why regular stress management is critical. If your stress levels are high, the solution is NOT to skip your workout—after all, exercise is a powerful stress-reduction tool. Instead, do whatever it takes to get to the gym, but adjust your intensity and allow for more recovery time between sessions.

Keep an eye on what you’re doing to avoid injuring yourself. Pay special attention to your diet and sleep and show yourself a little extra love.

Aside from exercise, there are numerous other effective stress-reduction techniques to try. What works for you may not work for someone else—for example, one person may enjoy meditating while another may prefer kickboxing! All you have to do is figure out what works best for you.

Some of my suggestions are:

  • Understand how to say “no” and delegate.
  • Instead of stuffing your feelings, express them.
  • Stay away from stressful people and situations.
  • Concentrate on the positive.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Have more fun by making fun of yourself.
  • When you require assistance, ask for it.
  • Enjoy a good cry.
  • Spend time outside in nature.
  • Resolve disagreements with others
  • Socialize more
  • Enjoy listening to music
  • Try Yoga
  • Improve your Time Management
  • Try Mindfulness

All Images Credit: OpenAI’s DALL.E, 2023

References:

https://europepmc.org/article/med/25226606

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-affects-workout_n_4790744

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894304/