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Fitness may guard you against stress related health issues

Jessica Desmond, an instructor at the Mile High Run Club (MHRC), leads a class in a Manhattan borough of New York November 14, 2014. A New York City fitness studio is following fast on the heels of the indoor cycling, or spin, craze by beckoning outdoor runners to come in from the cold for group treadmill classes. Equipped with 30 treadmills, lighting evocative of dusk or dawn, and group training designed to hone the skills of marathoners and newbies alike, fitness experts say MHRC - billed as the first treadmill studio - might do a bit to burnish the image of the most used, least glamorous, of gym cardio machines. Picture taken November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SPORT BUSINESS)

London: If you are physically fit and in good shape, you may be well-guarded against the health problems that arise when you feel particularly stressed at work, a study says.

The findings showed that a high fitness level offers particularly effective protection for professionals who experience a high degree of stress in the workplace — known as psychosocial stress.

Psychosocial stress is one of the key factors leading to illness-related absences from work. This type of stress is accompanied by impaired mental well-being and an increase in depressive symptoms.

It also raises the likelihood of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and an unfavourable blood lipid profile.

Conversely, a high fitness level is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and fewer cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers said.

“The study is significant because it is precisely when people are stressed that they tend to engage in physical activity less often,” said Markus Gerber, Professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Further, in the individuals who were stressed showed particularly large differences between those with a high, medium, and low fitness level.

For example, when stress levels were high, the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — or the bad cholesterol — values exceeded the clinically relevant limit in employees with a low fitness level, but not in those with a high fitness level.

By contrast, where the exposure to stress was low, far smaller differences were observed between fitness levels.

To promote a physically active lifestyle, a high priority should be attached to the systematic measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness and the provision of theoretically sound and evidence-based physical activity counselling, the researchers stated.

In addition, the study also has direct implications for the therapy and treatment of stress-related disorders, Gerber said.

It therefore pays to stay physically active, especially during periods of high stress, the researchers noted in the paper published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (MSSE).