It's been embedded in our psyches for decades: you have to workout longer and harder to see better results. Whether it's a grueling 60 minute aerobic class, a 10km run, or an intense morning-long workout withyour trusty dumbbells, we often think that more is better.
In fact, more is often less beneficial to our bodies and minds. Longer workouts, especially intense, long workouts, can wreak havoc on our systems.
Cortisol — otherwise known as the stress hormone — is not actually a bad hormone. When it’s in balance, your body performs optimally, rising to the occasion when things get tough, and then leveling out when it’s time to relax. It’s part of our fight and flight reflex. However, when our cortisol levels are consistently too high, this results in a bevy of mind and body problems, ranging from anxiety to inability to sleep to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Exercising too much for too long is one of the things that can raise your body’s production of cortisol. Think about it: you’re working really hard for a really long time. Of course your body is going to think it is in fight mode. As a result, you’re going to feel jumpy, have a hard time calming down and sleeping, and you’ll be unfocused. Those are a few of the more prevalent mental effects.
Physically, your body will begin to store fat overtime — especially around the midsection. This is your body’s way of protecting its most vital organs. While it is an evolutionary response meant to help us, it is not meant to help us long-term. it is a short-term solution, only, meant to help get us past immediate danger.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do longer workouts: like we said, our bodies regulate their cortisol levels themselves, and amping it up now and then isn’t a bad thing. When it hasn’t been secreted for too long too regularly, higher amounts of cortisol can also help us feel focused and energized.
So, doing a 15km run once a week? Awesome. Doing it everyday. Not so good.
As with everything in life,balance is key. By all means, enjoy your longer, intense, workouts, but cycle them with shorter intense workouts, longer, low-intensity workouts, as well as yoga and rest days,
The takeaway here is that too much of a good thing is still too much.
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