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12 March 2004

Fitness counteracts stress

Being fit and active could help women protect their bodies against the effects of stress, a new American study suggests.

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Being fit and active could help women protect their bodies against the effects of stress by preventing the development of high blood pressure and heart disease, a new study suggests.

Fitness plays role in blood pressure
Researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens wanted to test their theory that exercise influences a person's response to stress, and test whether being fit could help the body resist the negative effects of stress.

Exercise works to lower blood pressure, and therefore prevent hypertension. It is possible that part of the lower risk of developing high blood pressure is due to a lower reaction to stressors, lead study author Dr Rod Dishman says.

Writing in the September issue of the journal Psychophysiology, Dishman notes that previous studies into this phenomenon have failed to define physical fitness or take into account factors like gender or mood, yielding mixed results.

Effect only seen in women
In the study, the researchers measured the cardio-respiratory fitness of 13 men and 13 women of above-average fitness.

They exposed the study participants to mental and physical stress and then measured their blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow and breathing rate.

They also measured each person's mood (anger/discomfort) and perceived difficulty while being stressed.

The researchers found that when the women were under stress, their blood pressure readings rose. The women with the highest fitness levels showed less increase in blood pressure than less fit women. However, this effect was not seen in the men.

The researchers theorise that the body's adaptation to the stress of physical exertion, may help it cope with stress from other sources as well. – Health24

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