By Gabe Sanders Ph.D., NSCA-CSCS
The term allostatic load is a measure of hormonal and physiologic stress and it illustrates how stress can impact your body. Simply put, it is a measure of stress. Over time, most people experience elevated stress levels, which likely negatively alters the body’s’ hormones and daily functions. When acute or chronic stress accumulates in a person’s life and is not properly managed, it is possible to experience allostatic overload.
The key to avoiding allostatic overload is finding mediating factors in your life that help you avoid that feeling of being “stressed!” Conversely, the term allostasis refers to a person’s ability to adapt and maintain homeostasis, which is good for one’s health and is more desirable than allostatic overload.
Who is affected by allostatic overload?
It could be anyone, but research has found overweight people reported a greater allostatic load than other healthy weight individuals. This research also found that allostatic load was negatively related to inhibitory control. This means that low allostatic loads (i.e., health loads) were associated with a higher degree of inhibitory control (i.e., they could inhibit their natural impulses). In other words, folks that managed stress and have lower allostatic load may be able to have greater self-control and willpower.
There are also correlations between allostatic load and mental health in that low loads are associated with good mental health. Many researchers believe using allostatic load as a biomedical model for health care can improve outcomes for patients, more specifically, they believe it may help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.
How can I reduce my allostatic load?
Here are three initial steps that any person can take to reduce stress which will improve negative hormone fluctuations.
- Manage your body weight so that you feel comfortable on a daily basis. There might not be a bigger stressor than when you “feel” heavy or overweight. We have all felt that extra stress or depressive feelings when we have been eating too much.
- Engage in activities that make you happy. If you like to clean your house, clean it! If your life to exercise for an hour every day at 6 AM, then do not skip your workout. The key is to do what works for you and not feel miserable doing it. You should feel happy or relieved when you are active!
- Have a positive outlook on your personal situation. In life, everyone has different circumstances and it is not healthy to think negatively about the things that life throws our way. Having a positive outlook will improve your physiologically and psychological well-being.
Carlson, E. D., and R. M. Chamberlain. “Allostatic load and health disparities: a theoretical orientation.” Research in nursing & health 28.4 (2005): 306-315.
Matzer, Franziska, et al. “Association of allostatic with health-related quality of life in patients with arterial hypertension: a cross-sectional analysis.” Swiss medical weekly 148.4950 (2019).
Ottino-González, Jonatan, et al. “Allostatic load and executive functions in overweight adults.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 106 (2019): 165-170.
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