By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Stressful events best
dealt with as
not threatening

QUESTION: How does stress affect my health?

ANSWER: When we are under stress, whether from physical causes (e.g., an injury), chemical influences (like too much alcohol), or emotional reasons (kids fighting), we release certain chemicals and hormones into our bodies that increase our heart rate, blood sugar level, metabolism, blood pressure, respiratory rate and muscle tension.

Continuous resistance can make a person feel like they're under "constant pressure." This pressure in turn may have negative consequences.

Whatever the source of stress, your body's reaction could result in any number of physical and/or emotional (psychological) symptoms. Lingering anger may lead to headaches, ongoing frustration to muscle aches, and resentment, which is anger turned inward, may cause digestive problems.

Whereas continuous distrust or suspicion may increase blood pressure, depression often leads to overeating or starving behaviors, and constant worry can result in insomnia and/or anxiety attacks. If stress persists over time, it may exhaust the immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and endocrine systems and lead to long-term health problems. These include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Chronic stress is a major risk factor for obesity, which in turn is a risk factor for the diseases just mentioned plus type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, and some cancers.

Since in most cases at least, we cannot eliminate all stress from our lives, we must focus on developing strategies to deal differently with stressful events. An important first step is to understand you have a choice in how you react to a situation. You can view a stressful event in two ways: as threatening -- which more often than not leads to fear, anger, anxiety, or any of a number of exhaustive feelings -- or as challenging -- which more often than not leads to a calm, centered and determined state of mind.

What stress management skills you choose and how you develop them is purely individual. But once you're on the path which enables you to respond to stressful events as a challenge (positive), and not as a threat (negative), you'll feel physically, mentally and emotionally a lot healthier.

Here are some proven ways to reduce daily stress:

bullet Regular exercise.
bullet Meditation.
bullet Write in a journal.
bullet Watch less TV.
bullet Look for humor in life.
bullet Set realistic goals.
bullet Breathe deeply.
bullet Eat a healthy diet.
bullet Don't go on diets.
bullet Take time to listen.
bullet Have someone you can talk to openly about anything.
bullet Keep physically fit.
bullet Make the distinction between circumstances within and outside of your control.
bullet And last but by far the most important, never forget that you have a choice in how you respond to events in your life.

Q: Is tennis an aerobic activity?

A: Tennis does not meet the criteria to be considered an aerobic activity. Even when the ball is kept in play for extended rallies, you do not keep the game going for enough time at a stretch for it to be ranked with running, cycling, rowing, step aerobics, etc. Tennis is simply too stop-and-go to be a very good aerobic activity. However, if you're an advanced player, both the degree of effort, and the hour or more it takes to play a match, can stimulate improved cardiovascular function.

Generally, tennis is not an activity that burns fat. Tennis players do burn sugar calories, and any sugar burned off in activity does not get stored in the body as fat.

Tennis is a good form of exercise. It develops balance, improves coordination, and can be fun.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of "Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at P.O. Box 262, Wailuku HI. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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