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How Well You Manage Stress May Affect Training Results

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The time you invest in stress management may pay off in faster training results. A growing body of research shows that stress levels predict healing speed—people who experience more stress recover more slowly from illness or injury than those with less stress. Stress may come from life circumstances, such as a death or disaster, or may stem from an individual’s perception of stress, such as feeling overwhelmed by work or family matters.

Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin, and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, decided that since exercise is widely recommended as a health improvement method, it would be valuable to determine whether psychological stress affects a person’s muscular recovery after strenuous resistance training.

Researchers evaluated the relationship between mental stress and physical recovery after a bout of resistance training among 31 college students aged 19-21. The investigators collected data regarding the students’ perceived stress and life-event stress, as well as data on how each student experienced recovery over the 4 days following the workout.

Data analysis showed that students with higher levels of either life-event stress or perceived stress had worse recoveries. Recovery was measured in terms of maximal isometric force levels and feelings of energy, fatigue and soreness. Study authors concluded that people who are under undue stress may need to pay more attention to allow for an appropriate recovery period before undertaking another strenuous training session.

The study appeared in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2013; doi: 10.1519/ JSC.0000000000000335). The topic calls for more research.


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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