Is it OK to train every day if you have a stressful life but find exercise helps calm you down?

‘Is it OK to train every day if you have a stressful life but find exercise helps calm you down?’

Dr Frankie JacksonSpence, NHS doctor and Barebells UK ambassador (drfrankiejs.com, @drfrankiejs) ‘Regular exercise has an increasingly recognised role in mental wellbeing as it releases endorphins, our “happy hormones”, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Some form of daily exercise is recommended, but it depends on the type you do. Moderate to high-intensity exercise temporarily releases cortisol, so if you’re already stressed for other reasons, regular HIIT might create too much stress in your body and have the opposite effect.

‘If you wish to exercise daily for the calming mental health benefits, opt for less intense methods, such as walking, cycling or yoga. High-intensity or weight training do have a place in a training regime, but alternate these with something gentler. To minimise the stress of exercise on your body, make sure you are adequately fuelled post workout with a good source of carbohydrate and enough protein**. If you are struggling at the moment, I’d also encourage you to speak to your doctor about it, who can direct you to useful support services.’

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‘Is a person who is under prolonged stress safe to exercise, or will exercise just make it worse if they do too much?’

Chris Baird, senior strength and conditioning coach at Loughborough Sport and training lead at personalised health and fitness app, Oro (weareoro.com) ‘When we talk about prolonged stress, we mean constant multiple stressors that aren’t quickly remedied. With regards to training, you need to look at the “psychosomatic impact” of exercise – how our brains and bodies are connected. Stress may impact immune function, and studies have shown that people take longer to recover from physical stress when they are already dealing with cognitive stress.

You might be noticing little niggles or even injuries, despite the fact that you think your training has remained the same or even reduced. All of this is to do with the psychological components that impact the physical, such as sleep quality and duration, one of the most critical components to facilitate physical recovery following exercise. ‘Whether or not it’s “safe” to exercise is particular to the individual. It’s nearly always safe to do some exercise if you’re cognitively stressed, it can offer huge benefits – but this will depend on the type, intensity and frequency of exercise. If you’ve never trained before, starting with 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity could be sufficient. At the other end of the spectrum, if you train daily or do multiple sessions a day, you may need to reduce training frequency during periods of high stress.’

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