Every day tests us for strength, throwing up new tests. We get stress in any situation that takes us out of our comfort zone. You can’t completely get rid of stress, but you can learn how to deal with it. The better we are able to adapt to environmental conditions, the higher the quality of life becomes by reducing anxiety and the severity of reactions to stressful situations.
When emotions are overwhelming, it is very important to be able to switch, at least for a while to abstract from what is happening around and do what brings pleasure and gives positive emotions.
Someone is distracted by books or finds solace in creativity, while someone is closer to sports activities. In this article, we will look at why sports are good for stressful situations and why running is better than other sports for coping with stress.
What is stress and why does it occur
Stress is a normal protective reaction of the body to adverse environmental influences. It launches a chain of biochemical processes aimed at overcoming the difficulties that have arisen and adapting to changing conditions.
This mechanism is inherent in us by nature and has existed since the time when the main stress for a person was the need to escape from a predator or to get a mammoth. It even got the special name “fight or flight”.
In order to survive and provide himself with food, the primitive man had to solve one problem: to mobilize all the resources of the body, to concentrate, to activate the muscular system in order to be ready for the “throw”.
Such changes affect almost all body systems, and therefore are regulated at the highest level – with the help of hormones that transmit information between organs. The brain receives a signal of danger, in response to it, stress hormones, in particular, adrenaline and cortisol, are released into the blood by the corresponding organs.
What do adrenaline and cortisol do?
They improve the conductivity of nerve impulses – this has a positive effect on the speed of reaction and the speed of decision-making.
They increase the frequency and strength of heart contractions – this provides working muscles with oxygen.
They reduce insulin production, release glycogen from the liver and, accordingly, increase blood glucose levels – the main source of energy for muscles.
They accelerate lipid and protein metabolism, that is, the active breakdown of proteins and fats for the possibility of their further use as energy sources.
They redistribute blood flow from the internal organs, primarily the digestive system, to the muscles – again, to better ensure their work
Destroy immune cells (lymphocytes) – suppress immune responses.
They have an anti-inflammatory effect (reduce the number of leukocytes).
Raise the pain threshold.
All these reactions are aimed at ensuring that nothing prevents the body from “fight or flight.” The priority is precisely those organs and systems that are needed for this: first of all, the muscular system and the nervous, respiratory and circulatory systems that ensure its work. The work of other body systems in stressful situations fades into the background for a while: digestion, inflammatory reactions, and others.
Why running is the best antidepressant
Today, the nature of stress has changed, but its destructive effect remains the same.
After the danger has passed or the mammoth has become prey, homeostasis is restored, everything returns to normal: the levels of stress hormones fall (they have fulfilled their function and are no longer needed), and after them all body systems return to normal.
Now we do not run after a mammoth and do not run away from a saber-toothed tiger, but stress reactions continue to live in us from primitive times. All these reactions arise in response to any physical or mental impact, help us cope with difficult situations and even survive.
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This can be useful: thanks to the ancestors, we have the instinct of self-preservation. But at the same time, too much stress is bad. Let’s talk about this next.