Not all bodily movement (exercise) is created equally as one may think. In fact, some forms of exercise may actually cause more imbalance than equilibrium and wellbeing on the whole.
Today for the purpose of this article we are focused on running it this could be applied to any form of intense exercise.
It is also important to mention that we are referring to women peri-menopausal, menopausal and beyond. If you are not in this category, this article may not apply or even resonate.
I'll explain more about this soon...
Certain vigorous exercise forms can create stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and these stress hormones can cause imbalance or further problems if one is already experiencing hormonal imbalance.
It's kind of frustrating as a woman past 40 to think that an activity that we used to do that may have allowed us to lose weight is now potentially inhibiting us from losing kilos of unwanted fat or worse still... making us gain them!
I remember reading one of Dr Libby's books last year where she talked about swapping her running routine for a gentle tai chi practice and she actually lost weight from the tai chi (that is because she would have been lowering her stress hormones massively and not raising them with running).
We have to remember, our bod's aren't what they were in our teens, 20's and 30's, things change and our hormones shift. What we could handle and put our body through then has changed and we must learn to evolve with these changes and accept them (with love of course) 💜
We are goddesses not gladiators!
Exercise in 40's and Beyond
With all of the above in mind, it's also important to know and understand how things change as we get on in our years (I really detest the term "ageing" and "getting older" as I believe we are Ageless Goddesses), we just have more wisdom to call on now.
See our exercise tips below if you're in the ageless goddess club 😉
Things to be aware of if 40's and beyond (women)
- Our metabolism can slow down and often does
- Hormonal changes naturally occur in peri/menopause
- We may have a higher risk for developing cardiac and bone issues
- It's wise to care for our joints (and their mobility/flexibility) and our ligaments to prevent issues down the track...
- Some high intensity is ok but it must be a lesser % than when we were younger (40% HIIT and 60% lower intensity and restorative practices such as yin yoga, tai chi and qui gong)
More About Running
Running has long been touted as one of the best ways to lose fat, but as with much weight loss advice, the line where fact ends and fiction begins can get blurry.
The truth is somewhat more complex: Yes, running can help you lose fat, but it can also make you store fat.
Here's the thing: running is an excellent form of cardiovascular training and can help you burn a lot of calories (roughly 600 calories an hour). It can also help strengthen your entire body, especially your legs and core.
Another equal truth is that running can damage joints and ligaments and cause acute and chronic injury. And, for people who want to lose weight, running can make you store fat, or in some cases, even gain fat.
Running and Cortisol
Whether or not to lose or gain weight from running can boil down to cortisol — your body's stress hormone. When your cortisol is balanced, it helps control blood sugar and pressure, maintains a healthy metabolism, keeps you focused, feeling energetic and, basically, getting things done.
Higher intensity forms of exercise like running raise your cortisol levels. Now, this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing — especially for people who do not experience high levels of stress, or are not running for long that often (think 30 minutes, twice a week). A little cortisol spike is not going to hurt you and can help you reap the benefits of this powerful hormone.
However, we live in an incredibly stressful world (arguably, more so now than ever) and for people who are constantly stressed out, running can tip the scales into an unfavourable cortisol imbalance and cause many negative side effects.
Chronic stress = living in a constant state of "flight or flight" mode. Fight or flight is ok if you're in a genuine dangerous situation, like you're being followed by a potential attacker and you need to get the heck out if there but living in a constant state of fight or flight has serious health ramifications.
Too much cortisol is not a good thing.
Chronically high stress levels can result in anxiety, heart disease, over or under-eating, problems concentrating, itchy skin, hair loss and yes, fat gain and storage.
The main reason your body stores fat when you're constantly stressed out is because a continual uptick in the production of cortisol — makes your body think it is under attack and as such, it tries to preserve fat as fuel and protection. Fat storage around the midsection is especially common because your body is trying to cushion your vital internal organs.
So, running, a generally healthy pastime that millions of people use to try to lose weight, can exasperate your already stressed out system and lead to weight gain.
Cortisol is Not to Be Feared
If you're new to learning about this stress hormone, I don't want to paint a picture that has you thinking that cortisol is a bad guy/girl because this would be misleading. Cortisol actually plays an important role in your body and the only time it is "bad" is when it is overproduced or underproduced (Addison's disease).
Cortisol in the right amounts is needed for helping control blood sugar, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, assist in making memories and get you going in the morning!
Cortisol levels naturally peak in the morning (hence why it's easier to exercise in the A.M than afternoon/evening) and levels usually decrease as the day goes on. If you have high cortisol levels in the late arvo/eve you may find it difficult to sleep.
If you drink coffee (which can increase cortisol and adrenaline) you are best to enjoy this in the morning for reasons just mentioned.
The Best Cortisol-Friendly Exercises to Lose Fat
Rather than pounding the pavement, give walking a chance. Walking is one of the best exercises to lower cortisol and keep your mental and physical health in check. It's invigorating, easier on your joints than running and will not cause your cortisol to spike.
You don't have to commit to walking for hours, either. Just 30 minutes of walking a day at a brisk (but not exhausting) pace is all you need to help you lose fat, strengthen bones, increase muscular endurance and decompress.
It's really that simple, and let's face it: these days, when we're given something this simple, we should really enjoy its simplicity.
Other lower intensity, effective exercises
- Flow yoga, hot yoga
- Interval training
- Biometrics types of training
- Biking (not competitively)
- Strength training (weights but not too heavy)
- Squats and lunges
- Skating and rollerblading (not competitively)
How Do We Know if Our Hormones Are Out of Sync?
If you've been doing lots of exercise and eating right and you're still not shedding the pounds (kilo's), there's a chance that you may have a hormonal imbalance and this may be contributed by over-exerting yourself and other factors?
Most of us women in this stage of our lives know too well the frustration of doing everything "right" (well, what we think is right anyway) and not seeing the results we so desire. We may then get discouraged and seek comfort in a bowl of ice cream or bottle of wine [INSERT CHOSEN COMFORT FOOD/DRINK] 🍧🍷🍩🍫🍟
This obviously only serves to further fuel the problem and perpetuate the imbalance 😩
If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, the best test to do is a DUTCH TEST, you should be able to get this through your doctor. While you can get this test online, it is better to have the results translated to you so you truly understand what is going on.
If You Know Your Hormones are Imbalanced
You may like to check out a recent blog that we published on how to naturally balance your hormones. You can find it here.
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I hope you enjoyed today's article and learnt something new or even just got some good reminders and remember to share this article link with anyone you think may benefit because after all, information is only useful if it's shared 🤗