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Live Stronger for Longer with...Hugs?
The power of hugging for boosting hormones and longevity
The Highlander helps strength athletes and enthusiasts live stronger for longer. Join hundreds of fellow Highlanders on the journey:
A Hug a Day
My doctor told me I should hug more often.
And this is a doctor that specializes in advanced medicine, hormone replacement, and longevity for strength athletes. He noted that I had a high cortisol reading in a recent blood review and hugs may be able to help counteract it.
So I looked into the science of hugs and was surprised at the power they can add to a strongevity practice.
Hugging for Better Hormone Regulation
Hugs affect three hormones - oxytocin, cortisol, and serotonin. Each impact mood, stress, and overall wellbeing, and each are particularly responsive to physical touch.
Oxytocin: The Love Hormone - Oxytocin is released in response to social bonding and physical touch. It encourages feelings of trust, empathy, and bonding and can counteract stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that hugging someone you trust can cause a surge in oxytocin.
Cortisol: The Stress Hormone - Cortisol, a hormone released during periods of stress, prepares the body for a 'fight or flight' response. High cortisol levels can become chronic and detrimental, leading to anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and even physical ailments. Hugging, by boosting oxytocin levels, counteracts cortisol production, helping to lower overall stress levels and create a calming effect.
Serotonin: The Happiness Hormone - Serotonin plays a crucial role in mood regulation. Low levels have been associated with depression and anxiety. Hugging, through the interaction of oxytocin and other endorphins, can lead to increased serotonin production, fostering happiness and wellbeing.
Hugging for a Healthier Heart
Hugging doesn't just improve hormone profiles; it has a direct effect on stress-related physiological responses. In a study in 'Psychosomatic Medicine,' individuals who had greater social support and received more frequent hugs had lower heart rates and blood pressure levels during stressful events.
I’ve dealt with high blood pressure in the past and lowered it with a few supplements, but perhaps the underlying issue is tied to high cortisol levels. Hugs may incrementally improve blood pressure issues in conjunction with other tactics.
Hugging for a Stronger Immune System
Hugs also contribute to a healthier immune system. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. By reducing stress and its associated hormone fluctuations, hugging can indirectly support immune system function. One study found that people who received more hugs and had a more substantial social support system were less likely to catch a common cold.
Highlanders should all want to be sick less frequently so we can train hard and allow our bodies to focus on recovery from exercise induced stress rather than immune stress.
Just Hug More
My wife has been teasing me for years that I should hug more often because it makes you feel better. I don’t know if she ever read any research about it or if she knew the power of hugs intuitively, but there is an undeniable calming effect from a hug. The research proves the power of the hug, and so does your innate response after. It's a testament to the importance of human connection, touch, and emotional intimacy even for meatheads.
Hug your loved ones, hug your kids, hug your dog, and live stronger for longer.
Disclaimer: The Highlander is an educational Substack about how to live stronger for longer. As with all exercise, and health advice, consult with a doctor and/or trainer. This is not medical advice.