Managing the Consequence of Stress

The Role of Exercise in Managing the Consequence of

Stress on Metabolic Health

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Stress is the body’s response in coping with psychological or emotional pressure. In essence, when the human body perceives a psychological or physical threat to its well-being, it has to trigger an appropriate response to modify its physiological response to mitigate any potential harm to the individual. People get exposed to stressful situations daily while dealing with unforeseen crises or rampant irritations (Anisman & Merali, 1999). In addition, Salleh (2008) indicates that 75% of all doctor appointment in the US come from different forms of stress-related illnesses. Gowey et al. (2019) state that perceived stress was linked to poor metabolic health effects.

Ryan (2014) argues the same point by stating that when individuals are consistently susceptible to psychosocial stress, they are more likely to suffer from metabolic disease. Such metabolic syndromes include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Type-2 diabetes mellitus.

Physiological Response to Stress

When the body responds to stress, the sympatho-adrenomedullary system facilitates immediate physiological and behavioral response, whereas the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical facilitates the sustained response (Ryan, 2014). Ryan further posits that activities occurring within the sympatho-adrenomedullary system, such as the release of catecholamines to flow within the system, has other independent effects. For instance, stored energy in the body is mobilized, the heart rate and the blood pressure increase, and blood flows away from reproductive and digestive processes.

Chronic Stress and Metabolic Disease

Chronic stress is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. As Ryan stated before, even though the sympatho-adrenomedullary system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical may be adaptive in the short term, increased susceptibility to these physiological responses guarantees wears and tear on the body organs and tissues involved (Ryan et al., 2014).

Association Between Exercise and Metabolic Health

Myers et al. (2019) point out that observational and interventional research suggest a crucial role for physical activity and increased fitness in alleviating metabolic syndrome.  According to Myers et al., exercise significantly impacts each component of the metabolic syndrome. Individual components of metabolic syndrome include obesity and insulin resistance. Therefore, while physical activity does not take insulin to insulin levels to their normal required state good for the body, studies have shown that increased physical activity has essential health outcome on the metabolic syndrome. However, Myers et al. state that people do not use exercise to alleviate the impact of metabolic syndrome on the body. Most pharmacologic treatments may recommend sideline fitness because it is less economically driven.

Myers et al. (2019) further suggest that regular exercise is fundamental in cutting down excess weight, reducing blood pressure, increasing lipid disorders by increasing triglycerides and heptadecanoic acid. Physical activity highly impacts insulin resistance. It is the component of metabolic syndrome that is most demonstrably proved in studies. Eventually, Myers et al.’s research on the association between physical activity and metabolic syndrome established that physical exercise had a favorable outcome on metabolic syndrome and its components. The study shows that more active individuals had the most significant decline in metabolic risk. They state that even though the time required for physical activity varies from study to study, it required 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorously intense exercise to reduce metabolic risks significantly. Additionally, individuals with increased muscular strength showed a lower risk of being affected by metabolic syndrome.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness and the Metabolic Syndrome

Cardiorespiratory fitness is an attribute of one’s cardiorespiratory state. Factors like genes may determine one’s cardiorespiratory fitness, but Myers et al.’s study shows that increased physical activity can improve their cardiorespiratory fitness.

Chronic Stress, Feeding Behavior, and Obesity

Glucocorticoids regulate an individual’s food intake. Stress can trigger a person to pick calorically dense diets and highly palatable foods in a fashion known in layman’s language as “stress eating.” Therefore, a stressed person is likely to go for a highly palatable and less nutritious diet, as a result leading to dangerous metabolic effects. According to Lemmens et al. (2011), stress stimulates neuronal activation in the brain and reward circuitry after being exposed to palatable foods. The glucocorticoids responsible for this particular desire for high caloric and palatable diets also enhance the redistribution of body fats towards metabolically unhealthy visceral depots. Increase accumulation of fats in these visceral depots leads to other metabolic diseases since more fat is accumulated in the liver and vascular tissues. Exercising can lead to breaking down the fats before and after they gather in the visceral depots (Niemiro et al., 2020). According to John Hopkins Medicine (2012), aerobic exercise and resistance training were crucial in eliminating visceral fat. They conducted a study that showed that participants who performed resistance training and treadmill jogging for six months lost 5 pounds of weight and 18% of their belly fat. As a result, they avoided risks of metabolic syndrome associated with components like blood pressure, obesity, and insulin resistance, keeping them safe from cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Exercise, Chronic Stress and Cardiovascular Disease

Ryan states that a 1.4 relative ratio of coronary heart disease exists for men employed in jobs with high demand, low decision latitude, low reward and low control. Notably, the stress in the workplace or marriage can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Huang et al. (2013) state that physical exercise reduces the immediate effects of stress and facilitates the body’s recovery from stressors. Huang et al. further explain that exercise brings immediate psychological benefits when compared to other treatments. Aerobic exercise prevents ROS-induced diseases such as cardiovascular ailments. In essence, regular physical activity up-regulates the resistance against oxidative stress. Additionally, physical activity creates a more resilient immune system.

Exercise, Chronic Stress, and Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus

Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus is caused by insulin imbalance in the body. Stress can enhance the progression of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus in the body. Other metabolic syndromes like hypertension, dyslipidemia, and hyperglycaemia can also be associated with stress (Krankel et al., 2018). According to Krankel et al. (2018), these conditions make any metabolic syndrome patient prone to Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. However, they argue that one can vary exercise training intensities, types, duration, and volume to control glucose and lipid metabolism, cardiovascular process, and inflammation in an approach to manage Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. Colberg et al.’s study (2010) emphasizes that managing Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus requires managing blood glucose levels, lipid, and blood pressure. They further state that an optimum blood glucose level can be achieved or controlled with a good exercise plan., among other processes. Their study concludes that both aerobic and resistance exercise can manage type 2 diabetes by improving insulin action. However, the exercise program requires a consistent routine.

Exercise, Chronic Stress, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a metabolic disorder that can cause female infertility affecting approximately 8-13% of reproductive-aged women (Teede et al., 2018a). Its components include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and hypertension. According to Patten et al. (2020), polycystic ovary syndrome has reproductive, metabolic, and psychological effects. Therefore, the impact of exercising is consistent with other metabolic syndromes because of their similar symptoms. Patten et al. point out that 61% of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are generally obese or overweight. They state that insulin resistance is a critical feature in polycystic ovarian syndrome. Typically, physical activity improves cardio-metabolic outcomes for a woman suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Patten et al. state that it is the best form of the first line of defense. The study by Kite et al. (2019) also showed that when exercise was compared with control, there were beneficial changes in the window between baseline and post-intervention for these women to manage the syndrome. The study further posits that waist circumference and the body fat of participants reduced after exercising. These changes favorably influenced the body composition of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Even though the findings were scanty, they reiterate that aerobic exercise significantly improved these participants blood pressure, especially those who were hypertensive. Additionally, the physical activity helped the women reduce their body fat and anthropometric outcomes, and as a result, they could better manage the polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Gut Microbiota

The gut microbiota can respond to homeostatic and physiological changes. According to Lucy et al. (2019), the human gut is a complex ecosystem of bacteria, archaea, and virus that have evolved together with the human anatomy over many years. Lucy et al. further state that these elements, scientifically referred to as the gut microbiota, work collectively within the gut to facilitate digestion, immunity, and metabolism. Different variations and changes in the metabolic activity of the gut can impact health and various disease processes (Monda et al., 2017). Monda et al. state that exercise can increase microbial species within the microflora and sustain the growth of commensal bacteria. These help the host improve their hosts’ health. According to Mond et al., a healthy individual has an enriched microbial diversity in their gut. Therefore, they exhibit a good health status and immune strength. However, they point out that the gut’s ecosystem and its growth are susceptible to intrinsic and extrinsic factors, among which are lifestyle, exercise, and physiology. These factors affect metabolic health. Notably, good practice increases microbic diversity within the gut. However, Lucy et al. (2019) assert that changes in the gut microbiota rely on the intensity and modality of their exercises about their obesity status. Monda et al. further explain that a difference in the microbiota composition can result in obesity, heart disease, diabetes. Understandably, these are metabolic syndromes. Physical activity prevents morphological changes in the gut by cutting down cyclooxygenase 2 in both proximal and distal gut. Monda et al. state that reduced biodiversity in the gut can lead to obesity-associated inflammatory outcomes or gastrointestinal complications.



Anisman, H., & Merali, Z. (1999). Understanding stress: characteristics and caveats. Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 23(4), 241-249

Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Fernhall, B., Regensteiner, J. G., Blissmer, B. J., Rubin, R. R., Chasan-Taber, L., Albright, A. L., Braun, B., American College of Sports Medicine, & American Diabetes Association (2010). Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes care, 33(12), e147-e167.

Gowey, M. A., Khodneva, Y., Tison, S. E., Carson, A. P., Cherrington, A. L., Howard, V. J., Safford, M. M., Dutton, G. R. (2019). Depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and metabolic health: The REGARDS study. International journal of obesity (2005), 43(3), 615-632.

Huang, C. J., Webb, H. E., Zourdos, M. C., & Acevedo, E. O. ()2013. Cardiovascular reactivity, stress, and physical activity. Frontiers in physiology, 4, 314.

Kite, C., Lahart, I. M., Afzal, I., Broom, D. R., Randeva, H., Kyrou, I., & Brown, J. E. (2019). Exercise, or exercise and diet for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Systematic reviews, 8(1), 51.

Krankel, N., Bahls, M, Van Craenenbroeck, E. M., Adams, V., Serratosa, L., Solberg, E. E., Hansen, D., Dorr, M., & Kemps, H. (2018). Exercise training to reduce cardiovascular risk in patients with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus: How does it work? Sage Journals.

Lemmens, S. G., Rutters, F., Born, J. M., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2011). Stress augments food “wanting” and energy intake in visceral overweight subjects in the absence of hunger. Physiology & Behavior. 103. 157-163

Lucy, J. M., Jacob, M. A., Thomas, B. W., Christopher, F. J., Woods, J. A. (2019). Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 47(2), 75-85.

Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., Viggiano, A., Cibelli, G., Chieffi, S., Monda, M., & Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 3831972.

Myers, J., Kokkinos, P., & Nyelin, E. (2019). Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and the Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients, 11(7), 1652.

Niemiro, G. M., Rewane, A., Algotar, A. M. (2020). Exercise and Fitness Effect on Obesity. StatPearls[Internet].

Ryan, K. K. (2014). Stress and Metabolic Disease. National Academies Press.,visceral%20adiposity%2C%20and%20hepatic%20steatosis.

Salleh, M. R. (2008). Life event, stress. And illness. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences: MJMS, 15(4). 9-18.

Teede, H. J., Misso, M. L., Costello, M. F., Dkras, A., Laven, J., Moran, L. (2018a). Recommendation from the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil. Ster. 110, 364-370. 10.1016//j.fertnstert.2018.05.004

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