I was recently listening to an excerpt from Dr. Keith Kimberlin’s seminar, “How We Get Sick: The Human Stress Response,” and was struck by his practical approach. In very pragmatic terms, Dr. Kimberlin explained how a person’s unmanaged stress response triggers a spiral of all sorts of disease—heart disease, acid reflux, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and more.
How? Well, when we’re stressed out, the human stress response begins by sending our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) into overdrive, which is our body’s way of making sure we will survive the perceived threat. This stress response produces very real and measurable physiological shifts in your body’s inner workings. To name a few: increased blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart rate; decreased digestion, serotonin, and melatonin; and changes in the functionality of your immune system and insulin receptors.
Halting this stress response shifts your body from the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic (rest and digest), which is where you find health. The quickest way to counter the stress response is to do exactly what the fight or flight state says: move, aka, exercise. When you move and exercise, your body does things like use up that increase in blood sugar levels and bump up your serotonin and melatonin levels.
So, in a nutshell, Kimberlin very matter-of-factly pointed out that you really only need to move and exercise on the days you’re stressed out. But, as a whole, our society is in a constant state of stress. You know what that translates into, right? You need to move. Every. Day.
From this point forward, the speaker argued that political correctness needs to be tossed aside. When we are stressed out, men and women are not created equal. Neither is better than the other, we’re simply different, and treating both in the same manner is a true disservice. Kimberlin unapologetically states that political correctness is absurd when it comes to treating a person’s health.
The proof is right before our eyes. If you ask a typical guy to stand alongside a typical gal, it isn’t hard to see the physiological differences. Men are thicker and more muscular. Women are thinner and smaller. This offers clues as to what his and her bodies need to maintain a healthy physique. We’ll get to that in a second.
The other piece of the human stress response puzzle is that men tend to be more left-brained (analytical and objective) while women tend to be right-brained (intuitive and subjective). The speaker goes on to explain that in order to destress, the left brain requires movement. This is a double whammy for men to get moving. A man has to exercise a lot more than a woman to be in the healthiest state possible (thicker and more muscular).
A woman can get by with 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Men had better be moving all day—a lot more than the daily recommended 10,000 steps. Movement balances out a man, stopping the human stress response, as well as coping with daily stress as it presents itself. Women find balance by talking about their day—work, kids, traffic… everything. Please note that complaining is not the same as talking and won’t have the same effect on your stress levels, ladies.
Men, since you need to move all day, every day, a sedentary job will not serve you well other than the paycheck it affords you. In order to keep your body from being in a constant loop of stress response, you need to create reasons to get up and move throughout your day. During Men’s Health Month, try a few of these tricks to make movement a daily habit for you:
- Rather than sending an email or calling your office mates, be the guy who gets up and has a face-to-face conversation. But, make sure you get right to the point, so they don’t dread seeing you coming.
- Don’t work through lunch; rather, get up and go for a walk around the block a couple of times.
- Bring a smaller water bottle, so you need to get up and refill it more frequently.
If we exercise on a regular basis, we can stop the whole stress cycle, which can greatly reduce our tendency toward chronic disease. Isn’t that what we’re all seeking?