Exercise is not just about sweating it out but also doing the routine smartly. One of the biggest health trends to have emerged this year is cortisol-conscious workouts, which are designed to provide a rigorous session without activating the stress hormone in our body commonly known as cortisol. Cortisol workouts are often called HILIT (High Intensity, Low Impact Interval Training) and operate on a principle diametrically opposite to last year’s popular trend called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.
Simply put, exercise is all about the body’s hormonal play. While workouts stimulate endorphins or happy hormones, it is also easy to slip into the cascade of negative hormonal release of cortisol or stress hormones that kicks in when one trains for more than 60 minutes every day, even if it is done in low intensity.
“Glycogen is glucose that is stored in our body is used up during workouts. It is an important component as it maintains blood-glucose levels and is a fuel for the brain to function normally. One can easily run out of its reserves because of unregulated and unmonitored exercise,” says Ravi Shukla, head trainer at Anytime Fitness, adding, “Once you run out of it, not only does it impact the quality of the workout, but also leads to fatigue.”
Thus, health experts are encouraging short 30-minute sessions that packs in all the punch. The idea is still to get the heart-rate pumping with the usual cardio, strengths and stretches drill, but with keeping the intention of doing each set optimally. This means there are shorter breaks between each repetition. While one is encouraged to keep workouts regular, a two-day cooling off period is considered mandatory as it helps balance the cortisol released during the workouts. “When we exercise, there are neur=ochemical changes in our brain. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline and steroids such as cortisol.
Cortisol is considered good for our body, as it gives it a spike of energy to combat any kind of stressful situation and in this case it is being produced during exercising, for us to perform better. Even though workout-related microtrauma is good for the body, things become dangerous when done excessively, and in this regard, a knowledgeable trainer comes in handy, who can tell you exactly when to stop,” says Shukla.
Cortisol release is as much a mind function as it of the body. Monitoring a psychological response to exercising is significant to track biochemical responses in the body. “Stress of any kind, physical or emotional, causes an increased discharge of cortisol. With this, the part of the brain called hypothalamic—pituitary—adrenal axis can get activated. If this continues for a long time, it can cause bodily dysfunction and cellular damage, making the entire ‘exercise’ of engaging in exercise counterproductive,” says Pune-based psychiatrist Varun Kothari.
Thus taking small and constant measures towards a comprehensive workout with plenty of rest time, a mixed workout schedule, and an optimum diet, can go a long way in becoming cortisol consciousness with an open mind-body approach.