I recently saw that Washingtonians have the highest average workweek in the country. Arlington, specifically, ranks at #1 in workhours per week. Given the uber competitive environment we live in, most of us are not strangers to stress. And as most of you know, stress, over time, can lead to significant health challenges. On the other hand, it is generally accepted that fitness and well-being go hand in hand. And being in good shape also protects against the health problems that arise when we feel particularly stressed at work. As reported by sports scientists from the University of Basel and colleagues from Sweden, it therefore pays to stay physically active, especially during periods of high stress.
Psychosocial stress is one of the key factors leading to illness-related absences from work. This type of stress is accompanied by impaired mental well-being and an increase in depressive symptoms. It also raises the likelihood of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and an unfavorable blood lipid profile. Conversely, a high fitness level is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and fewer cardiovascular risk factors.
The data from the study published in the US journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that a high fitness level offers particularly effective protection for professionals who experience a high degree of stress in the workplace. To obtain this data, the researchers recorded the fitness levels of almost 200 Swedish employees – 51% men, mean age 39 years – using a so-called bicycle ergometer test. In addition, they measured various known cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, triglycerides and glycated hemoglobin. The participants were then asked to provide information on their current perception of stress.
As expected, the study conducted by the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University of Basel, the Institute of Stress Medicine, and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg illustrates that stressed individuals exhibit higher values of most cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, it was confirmed that cardiovascular fitness is linked to virtually all risk factors, with the risk factors being less high in people who are physically fit.
The researchers demonstrated for the first time that the relationship between the subjective perception of stress and cardiovascular risk factors is mitigated by fitness. In other words, among the stressed employees, there were particularly large differences between individuals with a high, medium, and low fitness level.
For example, when stress levels were high, the LDL cholesterol values exceeded the clinically relevant limit in employees with a low fitness level – but not in those with a high fitness level. By contrast, where the exposure to stress was low, far smaller differences were observed between fitness levels.
It should not be lost on any of us that it is precisely when people are stressed that they tend not work out. And though it may be our instinct to white-knuckle it through the most stressful times by skipping workouts, it is precisely at those times in which our performance under stress may actually be improved by sticking to our workout routines.
Source: University of Basel
Colonel Brian Sulc designed and developed the Colonel’s Fitness Program from more than 32 years of experience in fitness. His experience involves the most important aspects of running an organization, including leadership, management, personal training, and group exercise instruction. He understands that leadership develops relationships with clients by listening to and understanding their needs, challenging them, motivating them and ensuring that they are getting what they need (which is not always what they think they want!).
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