6 forms of Physiological Stress (exercising less can produce better results!)

8th July 2019

Stress doesn’t just affect the mind.

In fact, there are 6 forms of physiological stress that influence the body as well. Classed as physiological stress load factors (PSL), they include:

  • Chemical stress
    Caused by chemical irritants contacting your skin or entering your lungs. These are often found in cleaning products and beauty products.
  • Nutritional stress
    Every body is unique in the nutrients it requires. Food which is highly nutritious to one person may be useless, or even damaging, to another person if their body isn’t able to extract the nutrients properly. Consuming food which your body doesn’t agree with causes nutritional stress.
  • Thermal stress
    Our bodies rely on a steady core temperature for normal function, so if we are exposed to extreme temperatures our bodies have to work really hard to keep the temperature steady and this causes thermal stress.
  • Environmental stress
    The environment you are in can have a big impact on your stress load. If your senses are constantly being bombarded with information, such as bright lights, loud noises or even a tense situation your stress load will increase dramatically.
  • Psychological stress
    This is what most people think of when they talk about stress. Psychological stress can come from the workplace, home life, juggling commitments, financial strain, difficult relationships, or just about anywhere. 
  • Physical stress
    Exercise causes physical stress to the body, generally speaking, the higher the intensity, the higher the stress, and injuries can exacerbate this. However, you don’t have to be an athlete to experience high physical stress; the everyday physicality which life demands also causes physical stress to the body. 

Not all stress is bad for you!

We have evolved to use stress to our advantage. Stress can make our bodies perform well: our senses can heighten, along with our concentration, our blood flow increases and we can harness stress to make us stronger and fitter.

The body works efficiently to keep its systems balanced. Each of the body’s systems deal with these six stress factors on a daily basis and have an optimal level of stress under which they operate best.

The danger of too much stress

Stress in the various systems adds up and the body can only take so much. If each system is only slightly overworked, the sum of all stress combined could equate to a significant load, causing all manner of unwanted symptoms ranging from itchy skin to high blood pressure.

When your body is highly stressed, further stress produced through physical activity will only exacerbate an already stressed system. The effects of one or all of the six physiological stressors can play havoc with your rehabilitation or sporting performance, reducing your natural ability to promote health, heal or improve.

Stress loads on the body have a large effect on the intensity that an individual can work at during exercise to create a positive outcome!

Using this knowledge to your advantage

Someone who has a high physiological stress load and is trying to lose weight by exercising too intensely will struggle to see any results. They may find they are getting ill or injured easily. They are likely to see far greater results from lowering the intensity of their exercise, alongside reducing nutritional stress by cutting down on the worst offenders, such as processed foods and alcohol. It may seem counterintuitive, but giving the body the space it needs to re-balance, repair and revitalise would expedite weight loss and make the individual feel a lot better. The same goes for someone trying to build muscle.

An identical exercise programme performed by two different individuals can create two very different outcomes, often due to the total level of stress within an individual’s physiology. Appropriate exercise intensity directed by your PSL produces outstanding results!

So how do I know how much physical stress is the appropriate amount for me?

You can experiment yourself, taking the time to consciously think about how much stress you are under and try adjusting your diet and exercise accordingly. Eliminating stress in some areas which you have the most control over will enable you to manage your health. 

At Natural Fit, all of our coaches are trained to help you identify your stress load. We tailor exercises to your ability level and guide you to your fitness goals, making sure you are exerting yourself no more than is healthy for you.

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