By Karen Malkin: By now, you probably know that stress takes a tremendous toll on your body, often showing up in the form of headaches, intestinal issues, weight gain, hypertension, insomnia, and other health problems. Did you know stress also wreaks havoc on your bones and calorie burning capacity?
If stress travels with you like unwanted baggage, take advantage of summer’s slower pace to let it go, boost metabolism, and build strong bones. By making a commitment to incorporate these stress-reduction techniques into your summer routine, you will stand taller, breathe easier, feel stronger, and burn more calories.
First, let’s take a quick look at how stress impacts your health.
- When stressed, your body releases the hormones cortisol and insulin.
- Elevated cortisol and insulin lead to increases in blood sugar, cholesterol, and signals the body to store fat and not build lean muscle.
- Stress causes salt retention.
- Stress decreases gut flora, healthy bacteria, needed for good digestion.
- Stress decreases the amount growth hormone in your body which is needed for growth and to build muscle.
- Stress decreases thyroid hormone needed to regulate metabolism.
- Stress increases inflammation in the body and oxidative stress and causes premature aging.
- Stress increases nutrient excretion. The body excretes calcium as well, chromium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and all the micro minerals, through the urine, from going to your bones for the good of other tissues—it’s like the anti-Vitamin D.
Slow Down to De-stress
Don’t worry if changing gears doesn’t come naturally, it’s very hard for me, too. Here are 5 tips to help you de-stress:
- Cut down on your commitments. Say “NO.” Create a NOT to-do list.
- Take a vacation, spend time in nature, and truly unplug (NOTE: this means your mobile phone and laptop also take a rest!) Try not to worry. What you resist, persists!
- Practice deep breathing, rhythmically, which short cuts the stress response and allows you to feel relaxed very quickly, which increases calorie burning capacity.
- Read a good book; catch up on your summer novels!
- Get quality sleep and give yourself permission to nap. Sleep deprivation increases the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which causes refined carbohydrate and sugar cravings.
Move to De-stress
Summer also presents the perfect season for strengthening bones, as you’re naturally more active in the warmer months. Cycling, walking, and Pilates are my exercises of choice, especially in the morning to get my day started right; it’s a great option for stress reduction, which in turn helps keep cortisol levels regulated. Simple daily walks, weight training, and finding loving ways to move your body will go a long way toward rebuilding your bones.
Eat to De-stress
Reducing caffeine and other acidic foods such as animal protein, milk, packaged foods and soda, and adding in a nutrient-dense array of colorful whole foods from summer’s harvest helps ward off bone deterioration. Fruits and vegetables, especially calcium-rich leafy greens and those high in lycopene and polyphenols such as tomatoes, berries, and watermelon are particularly beneficial for bone health. Additionally, Food + Oxygen = increased calorie burning capacity.
Take deep sips of air before and during each meal. Eating under stress slows down metabolism. Turn on the parasympathetic nervous system by relaxing, which burns more calories and boosts metabolism! So, in the remaining weeks of the season, claim your space in the hammock, spend time with the people you love, take a walk in nature, catch up on your summer reads, and fill your plate with dark leafy greens, fresh fruit, and lots of vegetables. Your body—and bones will thank you. Keep your eye on the prize: a long and healthy life!