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After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain what is meant by the terms stressors, stress response, and coping and discuss how the three are related.

  2. Discuss how feelings of stress often affect health behaviors.

  3. Conceptualize the psychophysiology of the acute stress response, including the roles of the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system.

  4. Understand the psychophysiology of the chronic stress response and how chronic stress arousal affects physical and psychological health.

  5. Discuss factors that influence the stress–health relationship, including factors that exert negative as well as positive effects on health.

  6. Summarize what stress management means and describe some of the skills and techniques commonly thought to reduce feelings of stress and its negative health effects.

  7. Teach a few simple relaxation exercises to others.

  8. Describe several ways that health and fitness professionals can help clients reduce feelings of stress and increase resilience.


image Morgan is a personal trainer and fitness instructor at a large health club. He has worked as a health and fitness professional for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in a master's program in public health. This semester, he is taking a class on stress and health. Morgan is meeting with a new client, Sam, a 46-year-old mid-level manager who is married with two young children. When Morgan asks Sam why he wants to start exercising, Sam confides that he has been under increasing stress for the past few years, with no end in sight. Although he does not think he has much time to exercise, he has become motivated to make the time because he is experiencing some health problems, such as tightness in his chest. He also measured his blood pressure at a drugstore machine and found that it was 170/95, which disturbed him greatly since his father died from a stroke 15 years earlier. Morgan appreciates his initial conversation with Sam and assures him exercise could help reduce both feelings of stress and blood pressure. However, he gives Sam a medical clearance form and asks him to check in with his doctor before coming back. Morgan explains that the blood pressure monitoring machine may not have been accurate, and it is best to follow up on the chest discomfort and possible hypertension. Morgan hopes Sam obtains an appointment soon, receives medical clearance to exercise, and comes back to the fitness center before the motivation of his medical concerns passes.image

The question, "What is stress?" elicits a variety of responses. Some people will talk about sources of stress: writing a paper, having too much work to do, or arguing with a friend. Others will describe emotions: anxiety, irritability, or feeling out of control and overwhelmed. Some will add physical symptoms to the list: tension headache, painful muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders, or difficulty sleeping. A few might mention behavioral symptoms: overeating, procrastinating, or drinking ...

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