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How Stress Affects Fitness (And Why You Need to Manage It)

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and there is no way to avoid it altogether. The car breaks down? Stress. You get sick just as you enter a challenging work week? Stress. You’re going through some relationship difficulties? Stress.

While most sources of stress seem minor, they tend to add up and can have a cumulative effect that impacts our health, fitness, and well-being.

Let’s see how psychological stress affects your fitness, why you need to manage it, and how to go about it.

Three Ways In Which Stress Affects Your Fitness

The most significant way stress affects your fitness outcomes is by impacting your sleep. It’s no secret that stress leads to anxiety, which, in turn, prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep. As a result, we experience adverse effects, including:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Low mood
  • Brain fog
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • A reduced ability to burn fat
  • Decreasing rates of muscle protein synthesis
  • Excessive and prolonged muscle soreness

The second way stress affects your fitness is by making you less willing to push yourself and stay consistent on the road to reaching your goals. Sure, you might train hard, but stress is a huge roadblock, and many people start skipping workouts or don’t work as hard.

There is also some evidence to suggest that extreme stress can hinder our ability to recover from workouts and prolong muscle soreness. As a result, we become less able to keep training hard and remain consistent because the body needs more time to recover.

Why You Need to Manage Your Stress

  1. It Puts You At a Greater Risk of Injury

The first apparent reason why you need to manage stress is that it makes you more likely to get injured. For one, stress makes it more difficult for you to focus on your training, which increases the risk of making a mistake or not paying as much attention to your technique.

Second, as discussed above, stress can prolong the recovery period and force you to spend more time outside the gym. Should you choose to push hard despite that, you might find yourself dealing with overuse injuries.

  1. It Ruins Your Training Experience

Working out isn’t always fun, and we can’t enjoy every workout. Sometimes, all we can do is stick with the plan, suck it up, and go home to recover.

The problem with stress is that it makes each workout feel that way. We lose the ability to enjoy our training, and the process becomes nothing but tedious. As a result, it gets increasingly difficult for us to keep training.

  1. It Stops You From Reaching Your Goals

The final and most profound way stress affects your fitness is that it prevents you from reaching your goals. Instead of focusing on your objectives and finding ways to achieve them, you become wrapped up in the everyday stresses of life.

Aside from pushing yourself less, you are also more likely to:

  • Skip workouts
  • Cut sessions short
  • Avoid experimentation with your training

As a result, your training becomes stagnant, dull, and less effective.

Studies show that exercise regularly is one of the best ways to minimise stress but a few others ways to help are:

  • Relax your muscles (Taking time out to stretch, take a hot bath or get a massage)
  • Deep breathing (Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can take the pressure off you right away. Using and app like Headspace can be a great way to take a few minutes to yourself)
  • Eat well (Eating a healthy and well balanced diet can help with your moods)
  • Make time for hobbies (Prioritising everything else over hobbies isn’t a great way to do it. Making time for things your enjoy doing can often make you more focussed at work and more effective at the work/home life juggle)