Exercise to improve Stress Tolerance: harder isn't always better.

October 23, 2019

A couple weeks ago we talked about Cortisol, the stress hormone. At the time we mentioned that exercise is a good way to help with stress. Exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress leading to an increase in stress tolerance. 

 

To explore this further we are going to split exercise into two categories: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Low Intensity Steady State training (LISS). 

 

You have probably heard of HIIT, after all it is all the rage in the fitness industry. During HIIT workouts you go really hard (often approaching maximum heart rate) for short periods of time mixed in with short periods of rest. These are usually your Boot Camp classes with Tabatas and EMOMS, running sprints, and spin classes. HIIT training has become very popular for its ability to build cardiovascular capacity and burn calories in a short period of time. Further, because of the oxygen deprived state during HIIT training our bodies will stay at a revved state for up to a couple hours after the training to recover.

 

HIIT training was designed for professional athletes to make them more capable of performing at higher intensity, and has become popular in society because of its short and sweet “fat burning” capabilities and that satisfying feeling of working hard. In a healthy individual, HIIT training can be very effective at increasing stress tolerance.

 

But, intense is not always best! A common misconception is that exercise has to be intense to be effective. In fact for some, high intensity is counter productive. If you are one of those people experiencing high daily stress or short periods of sleep then the last thing you need is a HIIT workout to add to the stress on your body. 

 

Low intensity steady state workouts are a lower stress option! LISS workouts can be just about any activity including movnat, yoga, jogging, weightlifting, and hiking. In these workouts you should be at a controlled light pace with your heart rate around 40-55% of maximum. To translate that, your heart rate and breath should be only slightly elevated, and the pace you are at should be comfortable enough to carry on a conversation. While LISS training does not technically count as relaxation, many people report feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after Low intensity exercise. LISS training has also shown to improve stress tolerance without causing as much stress on the body. 

 

Ideally you should aim for a mixture of low intensity and high intensity workouts in your week. Lucky for you, we do both at Ascent

 

You know your body best! Make sure to listen to your body and find out what it is needing. Feeling stressed or worn out maybe opt for some enjoyable low intensity training. Feeling under challenged, or well rested and spritely then try a HIIT workout. Regardless of what you choose, regular movement and exercise has been shown to improve mental health and increase stress tolerance. 

 

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