Milford Personal Trainer: Should you workout when stressed?

If you’ve been following our CNU Fit Dover and CNU Fit Milford Facebook pages lately you’ve probably been seeing a bunch of tips to beat the holiday fat gain that most people experience during the last three months of the year. Well today we want to talk about stress.

For most people stress is inevitable during the Holidays: between finances, dealing with additional family members visiting, and even extra pressure at your job, stress can pile high with little to no relief until January.


When it comes to exercise, a lot of people have the mindset that exercise is the best thing to do when you’re stressed. The truth though is…it depends. It depends on how long you’ve been stressed. Sometimes working out your frustrations can have the opposite outcome than what you want: if your goal is to lose weight and keep it off (especially during the holiday season) exercising intensely all the time may not be the way to do it.


Here’s why: There are two different types of stress, acute and chronic. Everyone goes through acute stress: maybe you usually have great days at work but every once in a while you have a stressful day. That would be acute, and a great time to go to the gym and let off some steam. Chronic stress, however, is a completely different story. 


Chronic stress is stress that is prolonged over a period of time. For example: you work long stressful days which causes strain in the home, you need a new roof and your tires are starting to go bald; winter is coming, your in-laws are visiting during the holidays and you’re wondering when and how you’ll be able to do it all; you don’t get enough sleep and really just need a vacation. If every day is full of stress and has been for quite a while you suffer from chronic stress, which means that you need to be mindful of adding extra stress to your body while exercising.


When you are experiencing chronic stress your body produces additional amounts of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol breaks down the sugars you store in your liver and muscles and dump them into your bloodstream for energy. The idea behind it is if you are under stress or duress, like you are going to be attacked, you have a cortisol spike that essentially kicks off your flight or fight system. It is meant to respond to acute stress; however, when your body is constantly under stress your cortisol levels increase as well, causing your body to prevent fat burning. The best thing to do to combat chronic stress with exercise is to exercise at maybe 50%-60% of what you would normally do. For example, instead of doing high intensity interval training during every session you walk on the treadmill for 30-45 minutes. You may not feel like you are getting a lot done, but you are supporting your body to start lowering those cortisol levels.


Now, this doesn’t mean to just cease exercising altogether, you still want to exercise just not as hard as you would normally. This season can be stressful so be mindful of how your body is responding; try to get more sleep, eat well, and exercise moderately. 


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