Exercise And Sickness (2 of 6): Working Out Under Chronic Stress

When it comes to exercise routines, we need to take into consideration our current health condition and stress level. Have you been exercising regularly and eating right without seeing results? Is your life is in chaos causing you a lot of stress? Well, then you need to read this post!

First, Let’s talk about stress

Stress Level Check

As I explained to you in my previous post, my body was under a lot of stress back in 2012. Besides having hypothyroidism (physical stress), I was very unhappy in the relationship that I was in (emotional stress), I didn’t like the house I lived in (emotional stress), besides having to worry about school tests while juggling my business and paying bills (mental stress).

I thought that going to the gym would help me release that stress. My exercise routine consisted of running on the treadmill and/or elliptical and/or bike every day, 4-5x/day. I did what I thought made sense: to speed up my metabolism since my thyroid levels were all over the place, slowing it down (hypothyroidism).

In a way, I was helping my stress level, because I would be away from the house I lived in and also stay away from that relationship. I had an urge to go to the gym, and that made me think that I was doing my body a favor by working out, but I was giving it the wrong response.

That urge didn’t have to do with endorphins, the feel-good hormone that is released during exercise; it had to do with me getting away from some of the stress that I was under. What I didn’t know back then is that depending on what type of exercise we do under stress, we can cause ourselves even more stress – physical stress.

adrenal glands: our bodies’ best friends

Our adrenal glands are these 2 cute little glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They react to stress by releasing hormones that may save our lives if we are hanging on the edge of a cliff or running away from a killer. The problem is, if those hormones are constantly being released, besides burning them out, we end up gaining weight!

So, you go to the gym but gain weight… does that sound familiar to you?

Here is an easy way for you to understand how our adrenal glands work, and how it may interfere with our weight:

When we are under stress…

  1. Our brain sends a message to our adrenal glands,
  2. The adrenal medulla releases adrenaline so that we have the energy to react to the stress (i.e., staying alert under stress, finish hiking after breaking a leg, etc),
  3. Our adrenal cortex releases cortisol to help regulate metabolism: it regulates how the body converts fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to energy.

So, while one hormone (adrenaline) makes Superheroes out of us, the other one (cortisol) slows down our metabolism as much as it can, so that we can use our energy as efficiently as possible during stress!

Isn’t it amazing how our bodies just know what to do? I can never get over it!

Now it makes sense to gain weight while under stress, doesn’t it? ESPECIALLY when your exercise routine is also causing you more stress. Now you know why so many people feel like hamsters on a wheel, exercising and not seeing progress.

Remember: our bodies react to physical, mental AND emotional stress the exact same way.


How to Exercise Under Stress

Like I said in my previous post, our bodies are amazing self-healing machines. They KNOW what to do! Until we can look at ourselves that way, we may just continue to harm ourselves with our decisions to either eat a certain way, drink a certain way, exercise a certain way, expose our bodies to different chemicals, etc, etc, etc…

We should ALWAYS make decisions related to our bodies thinking about our current health status. When we do that, we can actually help our bodies heal and perform at their best potential, not harm them. When we do so, the unwanted excess weight drops easily.

The best thing for people to do when under stress is not exercise at all. Yes, you heard me correctly, I’m telling you to just sit back and relax. That may be a tough task for you, right?

If so, choose exercises that will not raise your pulse too much; exercises that won’t make you sweat profusely like yoga, dancing, playing sports uncompetitively, etc. This way, your body won’t think that you are running from a tiger and produce even more stress hormones.

What’s the point in exercising if it’s going to make you fat and sick? There’s no point at all.

Take care Of Yourself

I know, this sounds so much like a cliche… Forget the cliche; think of this sentence, word for word. Take. Care. Of. Yourself.

When you are under stress, your body needs your care, really.

If you have – or have ever had – a puppy, you know how much stress they go through when they hear a loud noise. It can be thunder, fireworks, and even your vacuum or blowdryer. They can become so distressed that they will hide and shake uncontrollably until they know that that sound stopped for good and they are safe.

Let me ask you: would you put that puppy on a treadmill under those conditions? Of course not! It would make them feel worse! Instead, you would take care of him/her, pet him, try to distract him, calm him down, brush him, whatever it is. But you would never put that puppy on a treadmill.

We do that to ourselves because we think too much. So stop and listen to what your body is telling you! If you don’t, your body will MAKE you stop because then it won’t have enough energy for you to keep going, and you will become bed-bound one way or another, by becoming sick, pulling a muscle, or dislocating a joint, for example.

In my first eBook, I will be talking about how you should treat different areas of your life while under stress, including your diet, so that you can help your body heal and lose weight. Stay tuned and you will be the first to know when my book is out!

If you’d like to know how much stress you are under, make sure to click below:

Stress Level Check

Wishing you a life full of smiles,

Gabi Brandao

Disease Prevention Advocate, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and Licensed Medical Massage Practitioner by the Virginia Board of Nursing



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