BY ANTHONY LETT
First, let’s look briefly at stress and blood sugar.
Stress prompts a hormonal response that increases glucose (blood sugar) levels. When you’re feeling frazzled, angry, or panicked, your body will ready itself to fight off a threat by mobilizing ample glucose in your bloodstream for your muscles to use. That’s why research shows a link between perceived stress and increased levels of circulating glucose.
To increase blood glucose, your body releases adrenaline, cortisol, and glucagon. However, cortisol reduces insulin sensitivity in the body, so glucose
is less likely to be taken up by cells and remains in circulation. The result: Chronic stress may lead to prolonged insulin resistance (and Type 2 diabetes) because your body is frequently coping with elevated levels of cortisol.
(For more information on stress and the body, read “Why Zebras Dont get Ulcers.” Sapolsky)
What You Can Do?
Research has found that regularly practicing stretching and deep breathing can lower glucose levels by activating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, aka the “rest and digest” system. In many studies (See “The relaxation response” Herb Benson ) stretching and deep breathing lowered cortisol levels. This, in turn, will lower glucose levels. (Tolahunase M, Sagar R, Dada R. Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study [published correction appears
in Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:2784153]. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:7928981. doi:10.1155/2017/7928981)
We may not even realize we’re stressed because it has become our baseline, but leakage appears in various ways. High blood pressure, headaches,
and increased muscle stiffness are just a couple of examples. (Stress raises prolactin levels, increasing the body’s sensitivity to pain such as backaches and muscle aches.) The inability to recover from exercise is another one. (Cortisol inhibits growth hormone)
Stretching tackles the issue on several fronts. First, it releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, bringing a temporary but relaxing high to combat the physical effects of stress. This analgesic effect can become long term and several studies provide evidence that long-term stretching alters regions of the brain associated with pain. (https://academic. oup.com/cercor/article/24/10/2732/307000) Of course, increased efficiency of movement also minimizes the mechanical stress on your body, reducing the likelihood of pain and injury further.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, stretching provides us with increased psychological and physical awareness. Increased physical awareness is known as “Proprio” and “interoception,” that
is, an increased ability to tune in and feel our bodies and what’s happening inside of them. Increased psychological awareness is often called “mindfulness”. Both qualities enable us to respond
in a way that is more consistent with our values. The instant that stress arises in our minds and bodies we can manage our response more thoughtfully, avoiding an often unnecessary full-blown meltdown
The ability to control our reactivity to stressful stimuli in real-time is a better long-term approach than managing the consequences, anyone would agree!
Lying around like this is actually really good for you in so many ways!
Come and try a “high impact low intensity” session this week at StretchFit studios.