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Stress Hurts - The role of stress on recovery from exercise

There are a lot of supplements on the market that claim the ability to relieve stress. While a little bit of stress can be a good motivator, there's a lot of work out there showing that chronic stress is bad for you. Stress is known to raise blood glucose, weaken the immune system, lower testosterone levels, promote muscle wasting, and that's only the start of it.

A group in Texas can now add their own research to this unfortunate list, having shown that stress also impairs muscle recovery and heightens feelings of soreness and fatigue after resistance exercise. A small group of healthy males filled out a questionnaire which aimed to calculate the amount of life stress each subject was exposed to. Members of the group then performed a strenuous resistance training protocol and were assessed at 24 hour intervals after the activity for recovery of isometric force, perceived energy, fatigue, and muscle soreness.

Even when the results were adjusted to take factors like fitness, workload and training experience into account, stress significantly impacted recovery in this test group over the next four days. This finding really emphasises the old "healthy mind, healthy body" adage, and highlights the importance of the mental state on successful training.

Practical Applications

Many people like to take out their daily stresses in the gym - while this can be a healthy and productive way to dissipate these feelings, maybe it's time to take note of findings like this, and plan for longer recovery times between workouts during stressful periods to avoid injury.

Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Bartholomew JB, Sinha R. Chronic Psychological Stress Impairs Recovery of Muscular Function and Somatic Sensations over a 96 Hour Period. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Dec 13.

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