Why exercise is bad for you
Your boss dumps a lunchtime zoom call on you. You feel annoyed, but confident that you have the time in your schedule to handle it.
An hour later the phone rings — it’s your neighbour telling you your dog has escaped and is across the street
The day continues and more bad news interrupts your day, one that you thought would be problem-free.
You get to the gym and the workout is some mix of unintelligible craziness, but hey smashing yourself is good for getting rid of stress, right?!
That irritation you feel, that headache, that crazy ache in your neck and that desire to devour a smash a tub of ice cream on the couch — that’s you feeling stressed.
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to any kind of input that disrupts our normal lives.
In small doses, stress is good — such as when it helps you overcome a fear or gives you a touch of extra endurance and motivation to get something done.
But there’s also bad stress, which is often caused by worries such as
– too much intensity and training at the gym
– too strict a diet or too great a calorie deficit whether it be sudden and short or long-lasting.
Feeling stress for too long, whether for several hours, days or months sets off your body’s warning system of physical and emotional alarms.
Your body’s stress warning signs tell you that something isn’t right.
They are just some of the ways that your body is telling you it needs maintenance and extra care.
– Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
– Upset stomach
– Dry mouth
– Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
– Difficulty falling or staying asleep
– Loss of appetite or overeating “comfort foods”
– Increased frequency of colds
– Lack of concentration or focus
– Memory problems or forgetfulness
– Jitters, irritability and short temperedness
Stress that is left unchecked or poorly managed is known to contribute to
– high blood pressure,
– heart disease,
Cortisol is one of the body’s stress hormones and is released as part of the fight-or-flight reflex.
Something bad happens and it shuts down less critical functions like your sex drive and your ability to fight off illness to focus on fighting the immediate physical threat and breaks down tissue to provide the energy necessary.
The functions of cortisol are supposed to be immediate and short lived, enough to see off any physical challenge.
Imagine yourself as a cavemen/women/person fighting off sabre- toothed tigers -but this reaction is less than ideal in our modern, fast paced lives when stress is often psychological and disappointingly constant.
The negative effects of too much cortisol – the technical stuff
Too much cortisol for too long can have serious, negative effects.
The tissue breakdown, reduced protein synthesis and conversion of protein to glucose can decrease musculature and increase abdominal fat, not an ideal result!
It also suppresses levels of growth hormone and sex hormones, which can reduce libido and fertility.
It lessens glucose usage and increases blood levels potentially predisposing to diabetes and its effects on calcium can increase osteoporosis.
For many of us, we combat these fears by getting back into to fitness, to run off that stress or to out train the fatigue and tiredness we feel when stressed.
We do a quick search online, scope out a few exercise options and get down to the gym.
For many of us that equates to group fitness classes.
We find one our friends go to, or we see which ones are the most popular locally and we’re in
Next thing you know, we’re in a group of anywhere from 12-50 people, working out hard, getting a sweat on
The only problem is….
exercise is perceived by the body as a form of stress and stimulates the release of cortisol
Usually, as your fitness levels improve, the body becomes better at dealing with physical stress.
In turn, less cortisol will be released during exercise and also in response to emotional or psychological stresses.
However, when it comes to exercise, more is not better, better is better.
– Training for long periods of time
– Training at high intensity every time you train
– Not having rest days
– Trying to lose weight by adopting a radical calorie-cutting diet
All make it much more difficult for the body to cope with both the stress in your life and the stress your workout and diet routine cause you
So what’s the solution?
First, you don’t need HIIT as your only training option.
Instead, try a mix of simple strength exercises 2-3 times per week and increase your daily steps in the in-between days
2nd – Don’t overdo it.
Take regular breaks from training and listen to your body.
Leave intense sessions to once or twice a week max
3rd – don’t starve yourself.
Whatever your ideology around food, be it paleo, keto, having a balance of the right foods to fuel your body is crucial.
Make sure you consume carbohydrates and protein after exercise to decrease the cortisol response.
4th – be sympathetic with yourself.
You are your greatest fan, and sometimes your worst enemy.
Don’t fall into the trap of overestimating what you can achieve in one
training session and underestimating what you can achieve in a year.
Remember, more isn’t better, better is better