Worldwide, running is a very popular choice of exercise and there’s no denying the number of health benefits that it can provide. Increased energy, weight loss, muscle strength, improved heart health, and better stress level management are just some of the widely reported benefits from people who run. But, could running too much be causing a spike in your cortisol levels?
Is Running Skyrocketing Your Cortisol Levels?
Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and it’s released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. If you feel that running isn’t having the positive health effects on your body and mind that it should, it could be due to a spike in this hormone. Let’s find out how running could skyrocket your cortisol levels, and what to do about it.
Time to Adjust:
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with realizing that you could be doing a bit more exercise, and working to add more physical activity into your lifestyle. This should never be a bad thing! But, going from a sedentary lifestyle to suddenly doing lots of exercise could easily cause your cortisol levels to rise due to the sudden stress that it puts on your body. So, giving yourself a reasonable amount of time to gradually build up the amount of exercise that you do, giving your body and hormones space to adjust to these changes, is a far better approach. And, in addition to avoiding a cortisol spike, it’s also a much easier option for your body, helping you prevent muscle strains and burnout. In the long run, you’re more likely to include exercise as a regular part of your routine if you give your body time to get used to it at the start.
Are You Overtraining?
There’s no denying that exercise is good for you. But too much of a good thing can easily become a bad thing. Overtraining can lead to a number of negative symptoms, so if you’re exercising regularly but noticing symptoms such as heart rate changes, difficulty sleeping, increased muscle soreness and joint pain, mood swings, appetite changes, increased thirst, digestion issues, or irregular periods, it could be due to the fact that you are exercising too much. Of course, many of these symptoms could also be due to something else, so it’s worth checking in with your doctor too.
How Exercise Affects Cortisol:
If you’re exercising often, eating well, and still putting weight on or finding that you haven’t lost weight at all, this could well be down to a spike in your cortisol levels. Excessive, cardio-intensive exercise, in particular, could lead to your metabolism slowing down, as it elevates cortisol levels, which in turn impairs insulin sensitivity. And, if you’re exercising too much and not eating enough food, your body will go into ‘survival mode’ on top of that, where it basically slows down functions to conserve energy. As a result, instead of the weight loss that you’d hoped for, you’ll unknowingly hang onto every single precious calorie.
Lowering Your Cortisol Levels:
Thankfully there are some tips on how to lower cortisol levels that you may find useful when exercising. First of all, try shorter bursts of intense exercise, such as HIIT (high-intensity interval) training or weightlifting, instead of steady hours of running. Additionally, you should make sure that your body is getting enough rest in-between working out; take at least one full day a week to take a break from exercising and let your body recover. And, make sure that you’re getting enough calories; fill up with protein, healthy fats, and plenty of leafy green vegetables to give your body the nutrients it needs.
Exercise is important, but doing too much, coupled with failing to provide your body with the fuel that it needs will cause a cortisol spike.