If it always seems like you manage to get sick around the holidays, semester breaks, and other pauses in your hectic schedule you're not imagining it. Use exercise to protect yourself from the "Let-Down Effect".
Photo by soopahgrover.
How does this let-down effect work? Researchers at the UCLA have been studying how stress hormones interact with your immune system. When your body is stressed, the release of stress hormones in the body stimulates the immune system—ostensibly to protect you from getting a cold while fleeing from saber-tooth tigers. When the stress diminishes, things get bumpy:
In the immediate aftermath of stressful times — perhaps following an anxiety-producing project at work or a major family crisis — when you finally have time to take a deep breath and unwind, that's when illness can unexpectedly strike. Just when you're letting down her hair, your ability to fight off illnesses may let you down.
"This effect has been associated with conditions such as upper respiratory infections, the flu, migraine headaches, dermatitis, arthritis pain, and depression," says Schoen, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA.
It seems cruel, but when you finally take time to unwind after the stress of a busy semester or quarter at work, your immune system takes a break too—finally believing you're out of harm's way and everything is OK.
Staying in a constant state of stress just to boost your immune system obviously isn't the solution; everyone needs a break and extended periods of heightened stress will eventually wear you down and negate the immune system boosting properties of the stress hormones. Fortunately while your brain might be a complicated reasoning-machine your body is quite primitive and has little ability to distinguish between types of stress. Although most people wouldn't consider exercise to be on par with the stress of a demanding job, exercise stimulates the body and bolsters the immune system in a similar fashion. You don't have to start hitting the gym for an hour a day to see the benefit either—spend ten minutes a day walking stairs, taking a walk after dinner, or doing some basic exercises like pushups.
For more information about the let-down effect and how you can stay healthy around the holidays or vacations, check out the full article at the link below. Have your own tips for staying in tip-top shape even when the drinks are flowing and your manager's rants are light years away? Let's hear about it in the comments.