The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans. People are experiencing more stress and anxiety than ever before. What may not be as apparent to some is how that stress is affecting their muscles and joints. During stressful times the body secretes cortisol, epinephrine and other brain chemicals that can cause our muscles to tighten, which can inhibit range of motion and lead to pain.
The good news is that there is a simple, natural remedy to help alleviate that stress: physical activity. Consider wearing a pedometer or downloading an app to keep track of your steps. This way you can track your activity from day to day and recognize when you may not be getting your usual amount of physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, which can be broken down to 30 minutes five days a week.
Prolonged movement benefits not only our muscles and joints, but also contributes to the health of our cardiovascular system by helping to keep blood pressure down and our heart rate up. Smaller movements may not affect our cardiovascular system as significantly, but they do help in other ways. Simply stretching can release stress from our muscles and joints.
To get a good stretch, you need only to stand facing your kitchen counter, with your hands on the counter, and then squat down slowly and lean forward. Yoga is a great option for stretching, too. Using rubber therapy bands for stretching is another good option. Some can be anchored, so you can pull or push and do resistance training with them as well.
If you experience stress and muscle pain, make sure to stay well hydrated, get in adequate amounts of vitamin D3, and avoid eating too many processed carbohydrates. Vitamin D3 acts as a hormone in the body and is important for the health of bones, the immune system, and even prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The action of vitamin D3 can be inhibited if your cortisol levels are high. Cortisol levels increase with irregular sleep patterns and may inhibit the action of this important vitamin.
Keep moving and stretching to keep muscle stress in check. Every time you use a muscle, it serves to maintain its strength, facilitate circulation, and remove metabolic waste products.
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