How Running Can Increase Your Stress Levels


It’s strange but it’s true: running can be a stressful factor.

For me, running is a relief… most of the time. I like to be outside, to run in front of the houses in our neighborhood. I love the feeling I have on my feet when I run, and strangely the feeling of mild pain the next day.

I do not like the feeling of burning in my chest or shortness of breath, so I usually run at a slow pace or walk.

And while running is for me a stress relief, it has not always been so. When I was in high school I was aware that I was the slowest in the class. Running at that time was not much fun, but I did it because I felt I had to do a sport.

As soon as I exceeded the expectations I had set for myself, I started to love running. That said, I know there are many other people who do not like to run because they feel uncomfortable while running or have an injury that makes it painful. But regardless of this, the idea that running relieves stress is universally accepted.

But no matter how you feel personally, physically running is a stressful factor. Yes, you’ve read that right. Whatever you think or what your friends say about running and the zen phenomenon, running is an acute stressor.

Because while it releases endorphins (hence the good result), it also releases cortisol, a stress hormone, just like any other moderate / high intensity exercise. In fact, moderate exercise increases cortisol levels by 40%, and high-intensity exercise increases cortisol levels by 83%.

But before you worry, this increase in cortisol is not necessarily bad. In addition to the stress hormone, cortisol also helps your body recover from exercise by repairing tissues. Putting your body under intense stress and letting it recover is part of what running does, and it is to your advantage because it heals your body. But what plays an important role is to be able to support running or any other exercise by eating a balanced diet and getting proper rest.

Running Can Increase Your Stress

So what are the appropriate conditions?

The right conditions are to be relaxed and not fasting, to be able to support the acute stress that is created when you run and allow your body to heal.

But everyone has a unique limit on how much stress their body can tolerate.

This is why some people can do intense marathon training with very little sleep and others experience significant physical symptoms after a period of stress, regardless of diet / exercise. And although I have not seen any research on this, I suspect that different people are more sensitive to certain stressors.

It is also helpful to know the general health exercise recommendations – 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week. Of course, this does not mean that exercising too much is bad or harmful, it just can put your body under stress, so you may want to make sure that your motivations are clear and worthwhile. We have adopted the idea that more exercise is always better, but sometimes less exercise can do more good.

But if you are someone who likes running, do not stop. Unless your doctor tells you to stop or you are injured then – stop. But otherwise, if running is part of your life, then keep doing it, adequately nourishing your body. And know that if you’re going through a period of stress, you can relax by going for a run – this may actually be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.

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