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The importance of adrenal health

Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 25th of March 2014 Hadyn Luke 25/03/2014

Tags: Anatomy and physiology

title

The adrenal glands play a major role in a range of bodily functions through the hormones they secrete. This blog covers the importance of keeping the adrenal glands in balance.

What is the function of the adrenal glands?

Found on top of the kidneys, the adrenal glands regulate the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which relate to sleep patterns and energy levels. Their function is related to how an individual responds to stress and they also have a role in reproduction (see our blog on The endocrine system).

Medical exams related to the adrenal glands

In some cases a medical exam might be needed to check that any imbalance isn’t due to a specific adrenal gland disorder. This may include checking cortisol levels and whether the pituitary gland is functioning properly.

The effect of stress

As any personal trainer will know, some clients who attend a gym may be suffering from stress, whether from a busy job, or from a particular life situation such as a divorce, illness or bereavement.

Stress overtaxes the adrenal glands, which in turn has an effect on sleep and energy levels. Fitness trainers may notice a difference in the energy levels of clients who are over stressed, and this will affect their training as well as their overall wellbeing.

In some cases, they will have fallen into a cycle of becoming stressed, sleeping badly, and using stimulants such as coffee or chocolate – all of which has a detrimental effect on the adrenal glands (see our blog on What do you know about caffeine?).

The benefits of sleep

Sleep brings many benefits for health and wellbeing (see our blog on The importance of sleep for exercise recovery and performance) and is vital for supporting the health of our endocrine system.

A fitness instructor may notice a client looking particularly tired or fatigued. Ideally they should try to go to bed at the same time each night and get around eight hours of sleep. If they feel tired during the day, a short power nap – or even just lying down to relax for 15 minutes – can help.

Dietary options

In our grab-and-go culture, we often don’t eat the regular, well-balanced meals we should do each day and this can dramatically affect our energy levels, with a knock-on effect on exercise and sporting activities. If a personal trainer has a client who is struggling with an exercise that they had previously managed, it may be worth chatting to them about their diet and lifestyle.

A healthy diet and regular meals and snacks will help maintain blood sugar levels and avoid stress on the adrenal glands. Eating at the same time each day can help cortisol levels remain steady. See our blog Do you know your macronutrients? for an idea of the essential macronutrients and micronutrients that the body needs.

The adrenal glands and exercise

Exercise can help regulate cortisol levels and counteract problems such as high blood pressure, which can be caused by excessive amounts of aldosterone secreted by the adrenal glands.

Taking part in a fitness class or a sporting activity, or having a good work out with a personal trainer can all be great stress busters, taking the mind off any problems as well as helping to keep the body healthy.

Finally, relaxation techniques are also beneficial for adrenal gland health, whether coupled with exercise such as yoga and tai chi, outdoor pursuits such as walking, or taking time out to relax and meditate.

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