Optimum health: Stress, it’s not all bad

Fitness expert Richelle Melde

Fitness expert Richelle Melde
(Photo courtesy of Hollye Schumacher Photography)


Stress is not always a negative thing. For instance, in order to see muscle growth, we need to stress the muscle fibers. However, stress today is chronic and seemingly never-ending which leads to disease. This is not good.

The first step to reducing stress is recognizing the multiple forms of stress that bombard us every day. Obviously, we aren’t going to be able to eliminate all stress from our lives, but we need to learn to manage and/or minimize as much as possible.

What happens when we’re stressed? You know the fight or flight response, right? This is an incredible survival mechanism that allows our body to instantly ready for an emergency situation. Today, because we are under constant stress, our body is constantly in this stress state. This can cause us to retain body fat, get sick more often, become depressed and, ultimately, leads to disease.

When you become stressed, whether from emotional, chemical or physical stressors, your body reacts the same. Cortisol levels rise, which suppresses your immune system, aldosterone is released to regulate your blood pressure and adrenaline to increase breath rate and circulation.

Why is this bad? First of all, your body must focus on producing cortisol, so you significantly reduce your DHEA production, which in turn reduces your sex hormone production (testosterone and estrogens). Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it will tear down muscle tissue. Most of us eat poorly, don’t get enough sleep, drink alcohol, etc., so our body has an imbalance of cortisol and DHEA (your repair hormone). Any exercise you do will result in muscle mass loss as opposed to body fat loss. With elevated levels of cortisol, your body does not mobilize fat stores for energy because it needs to easiest, fastest source, which is sugar. It’s a nasty cycle.

This kind of stress load over a lifetime will lead to adrenal fatigue, which we will discuss later in our series.

Richelle Melde is the Fitness Expert for News Channel 12 EVB Live show (Phoenix, Ariz.) and has been seen on Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC, as well as in the AZ Republic and Business Journal. She has a B.S. in Psychology, Sociology and Women’s Studies and is a CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Life Coach.

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