Whats the best form of exercise to support your hormones?
When it comes to hormones, we really need to consider exercise. We are somewhat mistaken by the media, as to what kind of exercise supports our hormonal health, especially as women.
I see all over the place women fighting to loose weight despite working out 6 times a week, running marathons, HIIT workouts once a day, high intensity this, high intensity that. Did you ever stop to think what kind of affect this HIGH INTENSITY exercise has on our hormones?
I used to be exactly the same - I'd take on crazy intense crossfit exercises, followed by circuits, then i'd wake up at 5am every morning and go for a morning run for 30 minutes in the DESERT! (100+ degrees!). I look back now and wonder whether that played a huge role in my hormones becoming so out of whack. It definitely didn't help let me tell you.
To break it down
We know that exercise is good for us. It strengthens our major organs and our muscles. It helps to regulate blood sugars and fat storage. It improves bone density and stimulates the production of ‘feel good’ hormones. Exercise is essential for weight loss and weight maintenance.
The unfortunate thing is, exercise also creates stress on the body. Not just wear and tear on the joints and muscular stress, but metabolic stress as the adrenals increase their production of cortisol to keep energy levels high and the body’s various systems running effectively.
In general chronically high cortisol levels result in extreme fatigue, reduced immune response and low blood pressure and is bad for everyone. These high cortisol levels are even worse for the perimenopausal woman whose production of progesterone is at an all time low.
You may wonder why this happens? The adrenals cannot make cortisol without progesterone. The more cortisol they’re required to make to offset stress, the less progesterone will be available to balance estrogen and testosterone. Without the balancing effects of progesterone, excess estrogen often leads to weight gain, in particular, an increase in the body’s central fat stores – belly, hips and thighs!! (Pot kettle black!?)
So in a nutshell, too much cardio, too much HIGH INTENSITY exercise can put a huge amount of stress on the body, raising cortisol, and reducing progesterone which then in turn raises estrogen, which stores fat on our bodies. WOW! Are you mind-blown?
So what kind of exercise is best?
Clearly we need to balance the benefits of exercise with the potential costs of elevated stress and cortisol levels. We need to exercise for hormonal balance.
- Limit cardio - stick to uphill walks on the cross training or light cardio. Jogging is fine too. Don't go running any marathons though - especially if you already have hormonal problems.
- Efficient strength workouts. Compound, whole body movements incorporating high tension techniques involve more muscles and burns more calories during the workout and after your workout. This also reduces the duration of your workout. Monitoring intensity during strength training can enhance the benefits.
- Add more non-exercise movement to your day. Take the stairs, park farther from a store, and just incorporating more movement in your day will help to increase your metabolism without causing hormonal stress on your body or spiking appetite.
Engage in formal exercise five days/week. Regular exercise a the right intensity is still key to losing weight. Alternate weight training with light intensity fat burn, yoga (power yoga is excellent for strength as well), pilates, mobility exercises, and stress relief activities.