By Jonathon Stavres MS, ACSM-EP-C
Most individuals understand the burden of occupational stress. Whether working a part-time job or a full-time salaried position, there is an inherent level of distress that is dealt with on a daily basis.
Stress is more than just a feeling or emotion; it is a physiological response to an external stimulus. When we feel stressed, the endocrine system begins to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline. Heart rate and blood pressure will begin to elevate and blood flow will begin to move to the musculature. Cortisol, another stress hormone, is also released. Cortisol stimulates blood sugar release from glucose and glycogen stores within the body.
Researchers McCraty et al. (2003) examined the effect that a workplace stress reduction program would have on blood pressure and emotional health in individuals with diagnosed hypertension (high blood pressure). The workplace stress reduction program implemented was focused on teaching employees to reduce their arousal and feelings of distress, and included physiological feedback as a learning enhancement.
The objective of the program was that employees would then be able to identify a stressful situation in the future and be proactive about reducing their natural stress reaction. At the completion of the study, results indicated that the program reduced resting systolic blood pressure by 10.6 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.3 mmHg (these results were also significantly different when compared to a control group).
This study illustrates that there is a definitive link between stress reduction and blood pressure regulation, an issue that is very prevalent in the United States today.
Another study by Clark et al. (2014) took the reverse approach and examined the effect of a workplace-based studio cycling program on workplace stress. In this study, eight four subjects participated in a 12- week cycling class combined with a cognitive-behavioral stress management program.
At the end of the study, results indicated a significant reduction in perceived stress at the end of the program, and again when tested one month following the end of the program. Results suggest that the addition of a workplace exercise program with a stress management aspect can be quite effective.
In summary, the articles discussed here promote the implementation of stress management techniques as well as physical activity programs in the workplace. Both of these variables relate to one another in a positive feedback loop.
Stress effects physical well-being; and physical well- being activity affects stress. From an employer’s standpoint, less stressed and more healthy employees are more productive and attentive employees. Less stress relates to better health, and vice-versa. Employers and employees should work together to develop a system for workplace activity and stress management, which will have significant advantages for both parties.
*For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
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McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., & Tomasino, D. (2003). Impact of a workplace stress reduction program on blood pressure and emotional health in hypertensive employees. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 9(3), 355-369
Clark, M. M., Soyring, J. E., Jenkins, S. M., Daniels, D. C., Berkland, B.E., Wernburg, B. L… & Olsen, K. D. (2014). The integration of studio cycling into a worksite stress management programme. Stress and Health, 30(2), 166-176. doi: 10.1002/smi.2514