The idea of “over-exercising” seems counterintuitive, when mantras like “no pain, no gain” encourage the idea of physical fitness as torture rather than an investment in your health. And while most of us don’t get nearly enough exercise, it’s also possible to exercise too much or in a way that puts unhealthy stresses on your body.
The Link Between Stress Hormones, Over-Exercising, and Your Health
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study on the effects of jogging and long-term mortality rates and coronary health. The study confirms what you probably already know. Getting regular exercise is much better for your health and longevity than a sedentary lifestyle (aka “the new smoking”).
However, this study also illustrated that when it comes to exercising and your health, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Surprisingly, physically intensive workouts actually have a ceiling for increased heart health and longevity. At a certain point, exercising harder for longer periods of time reaps no benefits and can actually be harmful to your health.
Some of the study’s main highlights include:
- Light to moderate joggers generally live longer than their sedentary, non-jogging counterparts.
- On the flip side, the mortality rates for strenuous joggers were found to be statistically similar to that of sedentary non-joggers.
The study found a type of sweet spot for running that consisted of no more than three days a week of activity, for a total of one to three hours at a slow to moderate pace.
How Cortisol Affects Your Body and Ability to Effectively Lose (and Keep Off) Weight
If you’ve ever noticed that, despite how much you exercise, you can’t seem to lose weight, you are not crazy. You are also not alone. If you’re like many people, you’ve probably blamed yourself, wondering if you’re not pushing yourself “hard enough.” Science has found that in reality, the opposite is true.
The answer lies in a stress hormone known as cortisol. Known as the “fight or flight” hormone, the adrenal gland releases cortisol as a response to stress. Consistently elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to stubborn belly fat, making it harder to effectively burn fat. In addition to storing fat, cortisol has also been linked to other potentially serious health risks such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Immune problems
- Cognitive problems
So what does exercise have to do with the fight or flight hormone? Scientists and researchers believe that the body interprets intensive physical activity above the ideal threshold for health and weight loss as stress. This triggers the production of cortisol, creating a dangerous cycle that makes it difficult to lose weight.
The Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training consists of short bursts of high-intensity exercise alternated with periods of rest and recovery. HIIT also incorporates weight and strength training, shown to be an essential part of fat burning and weight loss, but often overlooked in favor of intensive cardio. Typical HIIT workouts often include:
- Short Cycling “Sprints”
- Jumping rope
- Weight training (with weights and/or body weight exercises)
HIIT workouts provide for a well-rounded and effective full-body workout, making it a great option. In addition to being short and easy to incorporate into a busy schedule, they can be tailored to activities that you actually enjoy. All too often, people sabotage their exercise and wellness plans by focusing on activities they don’t enjoy, leading to ineffective, unsustainable workouts. For example, how many times have you made yourself miserable on a treadmill, when you really enjoy hiking in the outdoors?
HIIT workouts allow you to start with small, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your schedule when convenient, making it more likely to turn your workouts into a regular habit.
Most importantly, in addition to being more convenient, HIIT workouts effectively offer health and wellness benefits, such as:
- Burning more fat and calories in a shorter amount of time.
- Continuing to burn fat after your workout by increasing your metabolic rate.
- Building and strengthening muscle.
- Reducing heart rate and blood pressure.
Are you ready to get started with a safe and sustainable exercise and strength training routine that fits into your lifestyle and fitness goals? The Activ5 app is the world’s first portable smart strength training device. Activ5 exercises are short – you can complete an Activ5 workout in just five minutes. The device and app adapt the exercises to your fitness level, so each workout is challenging but achievable. The Activ5 coaches you through more than 100 five-minute workouts, measures your strength, and gamifies workouts for a fun, interactive experience. Activ5 makes strength training convenient, fast, fun and effective. Visit www.activ5.com to learn more.