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| Home Organize Your Wellness The Organized Good Life Too much exercise can make you fat
Living the Good LifeToo much exercise can make you fat
If you add a lot of strenuous exercise into the routine of an already stressed mental or emotional life, the result is more cortisol production. As the cortisol levels increase, there is a greater tendency to store fat in the lower abdomen. This is a cycle that becomes very difficult to break if you do not realize what is happening.
People with the extra belly fat will believe they need to work out harder and more often and although they will undoubtedly lose the weight, they will not lose the lower abdominal flab. If you have been working out and feel like you are doing everything right and yet the fat around your lower belly is sagging, you may be overdoing it. That may be why your belly is hanging over your pants. Although exercise is an important factor in healthy weight loss, the wrong kind of exercise for certain people may actually be preventing them from losing fat!
We all have an endocrine system which regulates all our body’s functions. One gland in particular, the adrenal gland, is located atop the kidneys and are very powerful. The adrenals release several hormones, the most familiar is adrenaline (also called epinephrine) which is known for its fight or flight properties. You may know the function of adrenaline is to mobilize the body for action by increasing heart rate, elevating blood pressure and respiration, and by increasing blood flow to the body's muscles. Adrenaline also promotes the burning of fat for energy, so adrenal function can promote weight loss during short periods of physical or even emotional stress.
Another hormone produced by the adrenal glands is cortisol and it can promote weight gain as it is related to the storage of fat in the lower abdomen. Unlike adrenaline which is produced for only short periods of time, the adrenal glands can produce cortisol long-term. This means that any fat burning effects from adrenaline will be overcome in the long run by the fat-storing effects of cortisol. From a survival standpoint, cortisol serves the purpose of providing emergency storage of fat for energy when the body is under stress for a long period of time. This storage of fat in the lower abdomen will provide energy and keep a person alive if he or she must endure long periods living under harsh and physically demanding conditions. The problem is, mental or emotional stress will elevate cortisol levels too, and for individuals who lead particularly stressful lives, the continued high cortisol levels will likely stimulate lower belly fat deposition.
If you add a lot of strenuous exercise into the routine of an already stressed mental or emotional life, the result is more cortisol production. As the cortisol levels increase, there is a greater tendency to store fat in the lower abdomen. This is a cycle that becomes very difficult to break if you do not realize what is happening. People with the extra belly fat will believe they need to work out harder and more often and although they will undoubtedly lose the weight, they will not lose the lower abdominal flab. This means they will work out even harder and become more physically stressed and fatigued and eventually lose muscle strength and risk injury leading to more stress.
It may not make sense to think one can lose physical strength as a result of exercise but cortisol can actually stimulate the breakdown of muscle and other tissue to use for immediate energy needs. As one struggles to work out harder and harder trying to get rid of the belly fat, more and more cortisol is released, and the body responds by breaking down its own muscle and lean tissues for fuel - meaning you lose weight but not fat!
If you establish that you are in fact suffering from adrenal fatigue / high cortisol, exercise is still necessary for your health and wellness, but you need exercise that helps you to handle stress, not exercise that creates additional stress. For someone with overworked adrenals, the best type of exercise is low intensity aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes about 3 times per week. You know it is low intensity aerobic exercise if you can talk with some trouble during the workout – you are not out of breath completely and you feel invigorated versus exhausted afterwards. Some good low intensity exercises or activities are:
Exercising outdoors is an excellent stress reducer and so a great way to reduce cortisol production. If you've been increasing your workout intensity to try to get rid of that belly fat, but all you've managed to accomplish was feeling tired, weak, and sore, by reducing the intensity of your workouts and controlling stress better, you'll likely find that the belly fat gradually shrinks away and you'll look and feel great.
As always, get clearance from your medical practitioner before you begin any program of exercise or try to diagnose what you may have.