Stressed at Work? The Gym Might Be the Answer


WE ALREADY KNOW that exercise is good for both our mental and physical health, but now research has proven that the people who exercise more often are actually better suited to deal with stress at work. They determined this by looking at the levels of cholesterol that were found in people’s bodies.

Researchers from Basel University and Gothernburg Hospital in Sweden first set out to see how stressed a group of 200 people felt at work. After, they tested the participants’ fitness levels on a stationary bike, and then measured them for different heart risk factors. They checked their blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, and levels of triglycerides in their blood.

What the research showed was that the people could be equally stressed about work, but that the people who didn’t work out much experienced spikes of LDL cholesterol — commonly considered to be harmful — in their blood when they were stressed out. The people who worked out a lot, on the other hand, did not. There was not much difference in blood cholesterol levels when stress levels were moderate; rather, the greatest discrepancy was documented when participants reported things feeling pretty intense.

The problem with having high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood is that can increase the risks of developing a number of heart and circulatory diseases. Adding to that, the more stressed out people are, the less likely they are to be working out regularly, which can then make their health and stress situation even worse.

The American Psychological Association says that exercise gets the body to communicate better, which over time makes the body more capable of handling stress.

“Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than usual… And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body’s communication system may be the true value of exercise.”

The National Institutes of Mental Health thinks that getting exercise on a regular basis can reshape the circuitry of the brain and help us process our emotions better, which would again make us more capable of handling stress. Not to mention the fact that people who work out regularly and stay in shape tend to feel like they have a better command over life, which can make us feel confident and prepared. And less stressed.