You just put in a long day at work and you’re stuck in traffic. Or maybe you’ve recently experienced a major life event, such as divorce or job loss. Either way, you’re stressed and stress can affect your health.
You more than likely are aware of the flight-or-fight response that gets your body ready for action. The brain’s hypothalamus sends both chemical and electrical triggers to the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. The adrenals produce hormones, such as cortisol, which raise your blood pressure and blood sugar. This is a great mechanism if you need to outrun a wild animal, but it can be detrimental to your health if stress becomes chronic.
How our bodies react to stress varies among individuals. Some people may manifest digestive symptoms, while others may lose sleep, have headaches, or become depressed. Stress can effect the body in the following ways:
- Studies have linked cortisol to craving for sugar and fat
- Weight gain and increased abdominal fat
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Decreased ability to form new memories due to increased cortisol
- Hair loss
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Heartburn, stomach cramping, diarrhea
- Increased blood pressure
- Reduces tissue in regions of the brain that regulate emotions and self-control
- Back pain
- Premature aging
- Suppressed immune system
- Exacerbates asthma
- Poor job performance
- Decreased sex drive
Yikes! That’s a long and scary list. Stress is a fact of life but you can take steps to cope with and counteract the effects. Exercise regularly, meditate, and seek professional health are just a few way to reduce stress.
You may have heard that carbohydrates make you gain weight. You may have also heard that if you eat too many carbohydrates, you increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. The reasoning behind this belief is that the digestion of carbohydrates increases blood glucose. The body then releases more insulin, promoting fat storage. High insulin levels may lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
But what type of carbohydrates are you eating? Are you eating high glycemic index carbohydrates, such as white bread or white rice? Or are you eating low glycemic index carbohydrates, such as apples and lentils? Not all carbohydrates are the same. High glycemic index foods enter the blood quickly, resulting in a large glucose spike. This leads to an insulin spike. Insulin then causes glucose uptake by muscle cells and fat storage in adipose tissue. But low glycemic index foods are digested more slowly, resulting in lower glucose and insulin levels.
A second piece of the picture is the glycemic load. The glycemic load accounts for the portion size. For example, carrots have a high glycemic index (92) but a low glycemic load. This means you would have to eat a lot of carrots (4 cups) to reach the reference amount of 50g. The serving size for carrots is 1/2 cup, making the glycemic load 4.6. In comparison, 3/4 cup serving size of corn flakes has a glycemic index of 80 and a glycemic load of 12, which would cause the glucose and insulin spikes.
Two more considerations: nutrients and calories. Low glycemic index load food are typically nutrient dense. For example, 16 ounces of soda has the same amount of carbohydrates as two apples. The soda has a higher glycemic load and the apples provide more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Finally, it’s still important to expend more calories than you consume to maintain your weight, or less to lose weight.
How much do you sit each day? The following table represents the sitting classifications:
So why is sitting so bad for us? We as human beings are upright for a reason. Our cardiovascular and digestive systems function based on the fact we are erect. And even if you are a regular exerciser, health issues occur with increased sitting. Research indicates that exercise and sitting are considered two separate health entities. If you sit for a large portion of your day, you run the risk of developing the following health problems:
- Kidney disease
- Slower metabolism
- Decreased HDL
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Breast and colon cancers
- Back problems
- Poor mental health
- High blood pressure
A study reported that for each hour that a person sat and watched television per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. The death rate associated with obesity in the U.S. is 35 million, while deaths related to tobacco is 3.5 million. That’s why you may have heard someone say, “Sitting is the new cigarette.”
So what can you do? A few ideas include using a standing desk. Try to get up every 30 minutes. Stand or walk while talking on the phone. Walk on a treadmill while watching TV. It’s not that you should never sit. Sitting for a few minutes to decompress from the day or to eat dinner as a family are good things. But sitting 9-11 hours a day can be detrimental to both the quality and longevity of your life.
Let’s get moving!!! It’s your health and don’t you think you are worth it?!
Exercising and eating nutritionally are critical to good health, and so is sleep. Are you getting enough? You need at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night. If you don’t get the sleep you need, your health can be negatively impacted in the following ways:
- The brain needs rest. Lack of sleep decreases your ability to concentrate and learn new things. You may become irritable, depressed, and lethargic. You could experience ‘micro sleep’, where you fall asleep and don’t realize it. This can lead to falling asleep while driving.
- Your immune system builds its protective substances while you sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system is weakened, increasing your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Chronic sleep deprivation could also increase your chances of cancer, as the immune system helps protect you from cancer cells.
- Sleep deprivation increases appetite and can lead to obesity. It also triggers higher insulin levels, promoting fat storage and type 2 diabetes.
- Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk for heart disease, including heart attack, angina, and stroke. People who sleep less have higher blood pressure and more atherosclerosis. Sleep apnea also increases cardiovascular diseases.
- While you sleep, your body recovers from daily wear and tear. Tissue is repaired, muscles grows, and protein synthesis occurs during sleep. Hormone levels are altered with lack of sleep, leading to changes in metabolism, appetite regulation, and stress response.
Performance training emphasizes training to enhance performance for those that are preparing for an athletic event, a sport, whether it’s competitive or non-competitive sport. To progress to this phase of resistance training, you must be proficient at acceleration, deceleration, and stabilization during power movements. You need to have the following prerequisites to ensure your safety and success:
- Joint mobility and stability
- Adequate static and dynamic balance
- Effective core function
- Anaerobic efficiency
- No contraindications to load-bearing, dynamic movements
- No medical concerns that affect balance and motor skills
Training with medium resistance and fast movement speeds produces the highest power output and is the most effective means for increasing muscular power. You should warm-up with low intensity movements that mimic the movements of the higher intensity exercises. This training is used to improve power, speed, agility, and reactivity.
Improving power can be done through the use of plyometric exercises 1-3 sessions per week with a recovery period of 48-72 hours between sessions. Intensity should progress from light, to moderate, to high. Repetitions and sets depend on the intensity level and your athletic level. Type of exercises include drills such as jumps in place, power push-ups, single front/lateral box jumps, and chest pass with a medicine ball.
Improving speed, agility, and reactivity can be achieved by utilizing drills specific to the skill, such as ABC drills for speed and ladder drills for agility. Frequency of this training should be 1-3 sessions per week with 48-72 hours recovery between sessions. These types of exercises are high intensity and should be done after a warm-up but before other fatiguing exercises. Repetitions and sets depend on the duration of the exercise with a 2-3 minute rest between repetitions.
Performance training lasts at least four weeks, but will depend on your training plan that is dedicated to increasing power. Engaging a personal trainer for performance training can help you achieve your goals safely and effectively.
For additional information: www.acefitness.org