Too much Stress: The Silent Killer (of Progress)
It is often highlighted that too much stress has a negative impact on our lives and it can have a detrimental effect of both our mental & physical health. Within this post, we briefly discuss the physiology of stress and the possible effects on our wellbeing both positive and negative.
So stress can be defined as a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. These stresses can come from a number of sources which all cause the same response. When the body interacts with a stressor whether it be physical (e.g. training) or mental (e.g. exams) the brain will release a number of stress hormones (Adrenaline, & Cortisol) to combat these stressors. This is known as the flight or fight response. These hormones will increase heart rate, blood pressure and alertness until the body believes the stressor has been removed. This process occurs when we are physically active. The stress from exercise with sufficient recovery can improve our health by increasing our tolerance to the stressor (i.e. making us fitter, faster & stronger). This is known as the General Adaption Syndrome.
However, if our body interacts with a stressor for a prolonged period of time without the necessary recovery our body’s ability to fight this stressor suffers and we become fatigued (Phase 4 on diagram). These stressors will affect our immune system, mental capacity, mood and general health. If we engage in too much exercise without rest it will increase the risk of injuries/illness. Similarly too much mental stress will decrease ability to fight infection, working capacity and irritate mood. But interestingly it has been found that engaging in physical activity will help decrease mental fatigue/stress and improve a person’s mental capacity and mood.
So what does this all mean for an individual trying to improve the overall health? Well sometimes ‘less is more and more is less’. Let’s say for example someone wants to become stronger. One approach would have been to train every day for 3 weeks with no rest and poor recovery strategies. But for optimal results we would suggest that they would train well for 3, 4 or maybe 5 days a week but between sessions recovery appropriately (Rest + Nutrition) for our bodies to adapt to the strain of the workouts and overtime will get you closer to your health/fitness related goals. So Overall, it is important to be progressively overloading our body with stressors for it to adapt and improve but remember too much without the right recovery will cause a decline in our performance.