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-by Brad Zwart, DPT, Orange City Area Physical & Occupational Therapy

Stress usually has a negative meaning to it, but stress of the right dose, the right type and an appropriate response helps us grow in many ways.

S Science is clear – our bodies need a good dose of physical stress to be their healthiest. Without stress our cartilage, muscles, bones and movement system get weaker and less resilient. Some components of physical stress include frequency, duration, rest periods, and size of the load.

T Training is a system of consistently giving our bodies stress, monitoring the results, and adjusting the dose of stress accordingly. Physical and Occupational therapists have the training to help determine the right dose and type when you’re struggling to move normally due to injury or disease.

R Recreation is a great way to incorporate physical stress in settings that you enjoy like walking on a trail, being in a facility with people encouraging you, in water that’s relaxing, participating in sports where you compete with others or challenge yourself to be your best, or playing games that are fun.

E Environmental factors play a role in how our bodies tolerate and experience stress. This can include the physical environment affecting you such as the surface you sit or walk on, the temperature, and the lighting. A work environment that includes adequate activity might be enough physical stress for a health benefit. Our social environments play a major role too. Through being around encouraging people, and through developing structure, goals and accountability around what matters most to us; our dose of stress can stay in a healthy range.

S Systemic effects from physical stress are many, from improving our heart’s function, to increasing mental capacity. Physical stress through activity has the ability to start the cascade of a whole host of hormones and enzymes that help us be our healthiest so we can do the things we need and want to do.

S Side Effects are real when there’s an overdose – but also an underdose. Overdose of stress can be in the form of stress fracture, worsening stiff and sore joints while an underdose of stress can result in stress fractures and worsening stiff and sore joints; interestingly very similar side effects. An underdose of physical stress makes your physical capacity reserve less, making an overdose happen easier. If you’re struggling to find the right dose of physical stress, work with your doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or personal trainer to find the right dose of physical stress. Remember, if we only do what’s easy, soon, what’s easy will become difficult.

Brad Zwart, PT – Orange City Area Health Care System, Orange City, Iowa

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