My FOURTH visit to the ER, yay!
Some of you may have heard that exercise can help decrease your stress, but how does it do that and how effective is it?
For the past two months I have been struggling with an outbreak of hives. The doctors I saw had no idea what was going on, the food I ate did not seem to impact them, and they just kept getting worse. By Wednesday night, my throat was swollen and my entire body was covered in welts.
Needless to say, I ended up in the ER that night- for the fourth time in the past 22 months. Go me!
Even prednisone (a steroid) only provided temporary relief, so I consulted with a homeopathic chiropractor in Tallahassee, Dr. Jensen, over the phone. He said that hives are the result of an emotional stress overload. This started me thinking on how we manage stress and how to approach it in a healthy way.
Clearly, this blog focuses on how to obtain and maintain our physical health. However, our physical and emotional health is very tightly entwined.
Research supervised by Ulrike Rimmele has been one of the many studies to prove that levels of physical activity do affect the way our bodies respond to stress. Elite athletes have lower cortisol levels and heart rates than sedentary people, and moderately active people have lower heart rates, but not much lower cortisol levels. According to wellness coach Elizabeth Scott, cortisol is the hormone that our bodies release when we are stressed, and it is supposed to provide us with bursts of energy. However, when we have too much of it in the bloodstream for too long, it can affect our cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function, decrease bone density, increase abdominal fat, reduce muscle mass, and of course raise our blood pressure and blood sugar. Thus, it is incredibly noteworthy that exercise can lower our cortisol levels, which can help our bodies handle stress better.
Even if you are not an elite athlete, having a lower heart rate significantly reduces your cardiovascular risk. Janet Renee, a dietitian, points out that the heart is also a muscle, and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it becomes. Consequently, a well-exercised heart can pump enough blood with fewer beats. As a result, the body is rewarded with increased blood flow and lower cholesterol. Renee recommends between 150 and 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week to achieve these results. This may seem copious at first, but that boils down to 30 minutes to an hour five days per week. That’s incredibly manageable.
Clearly, exercise cannot solve all of your problems (yes, I know some of you are shocked to hear ME say that). If that were true, I would not have ended up in the ER AGAIN. Sometimes we have to admit to ourselves when something is bothering us, talk to someone, or seek some counseling help. Part of my diagnosis with Dr. Jensen was talking to him about what had been bothering me for the past two months. This photo was taken a couple of hours after I got off of the phone with Dr. Jensen. Talk about a skin difference!
My skin was only relieved after I was relieved. So clearly, exercise cannot solve ALL of your stress problems. However, it is noteworthy that my severe condition of hives was not able to be helped by modern medicine. If any of you are having symptoms that doctors are not able to diagnose, I encourage you to reevaluate how you feel. Sometimes taking a natural approach can completely change your state of life. Besides, going to a kickboxing class sure does make me feel better after a frustrating day…