3 Healthy Ways to Beat Stress

There are many ways in which chronic stress has been linked to overweight and obesity. If you’ve ever given in to emotional eating or the craving for “comfort food,” you know firsthand how stress can affect the way you eat.

Additionally, being under chronic stress causes the body to activate biological pathways involving stress-related factors and stress hormones such as cortisol, which also cause the body to hold on to extra weight more easily.

So here are three healthy ways to get some stress relief:

1
Take a Walk

Caucasian couple leaving footprints on beach
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Research has shown that walking outdoors, in particular, is associated with improved mood and clearer thinking. Daily exercise has been associated with all sorts of health benefits, from stress relief to prevention of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Research has borne out the health benefits of a daily 30-minute walk: in the Nurses’ Health Study, for instance, those who walked briskly or otherwise achieved moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes every day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow-up.

2
Listen to Music You Love

Teenager listening to mp3 player against wall with graffiti
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You probably don’t need a scientist to tell you that you feel better and less stressed out when you’re listening to your tunes. But research has been done in this area, and it confirms that listening to music can reduce stress in daily life. It can even make you more efficient and improve your academic and work performance.

3
Spend Time With Your Pet

Woman cuddling with cat
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Some studies have shown that having a pet can lower blood pressure. Still more studies have found that having a pet reduces reactivity to stress and that people with pets (including cats, dogs, and even fish, goats, chimpanzees and snakes) have lower resting heart rates and blood pressure at baseline, indicating a more relaxed baseline state.

In 2013, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement delineating the many cardiovascular benefits of having a pet. These include maintenance of heart health as well as reduction of risk factors that result in cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and chronic stress.

Another way in which pets improve cardiovascular health as well as treat and prevent obesity is through greater physical activity. Most studies have shown that people who care for pets tend to be more physically active, and, of all pets (horses and other equines not included here), dogs seem to encourage the greatest amount of physical activity. Anyone who has or has interacted with a dog can confirm this!

Sources

Chiuve SE, Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Spiegelman D, et al. Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA 2011; 306:62-69.

Dallman MF, Pecoraro N, Akana SF, et al. Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of “comfort food.” Proc Natil Acad Sci USA 2003;100:11696-11701.

Calogiuri G, Chroni S. The impact of the natural environment on the promotion of active living: an integrative systematic review. BMC Public Health 2014;14:873.

Linnemann A, Ditzen B, Strahler J, et al. Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2015;60:82-90.

Lies SR, Zhang AY. Prospective randomized study of the effect of music on the efficiency of surgical closures. Aesthet Surg J 2015 Jul 9. [epub ahead of print]

Srikanth S, Latha R, Roja ED, et al. Effect of music on stress and academic performance of undergraduate medical students. Natl Med J India 2014 Nov-Dec;27:351-2.

Levine GN, Allen K, Braun LT, Christian HE, et al. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. Published online May 9, 2013.

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