Healing Adrenal Fatigue: Exercise & Timing Your Workouts (Part 5 of 5)
- Published on: 17 July, 2018
- Last update: 03 November, 2020
The final post of my adrenal series is all about what exercises I’ve been doing to balance my HPA axis, and perhaps more importantly – when I’m doing them! These are the most important changes I made to my exercise routine that worked for me:
1. GO EASY ON YOURSELF –
When you’ve been in fight or flight mode for too long, your first goal is to calm that overactive HPA axis and get to a place where your body feels safe again. The more I worked out past my limits to try to slim down, the puffier I looked. This type of weight gain is not about calories in/out, it’s about HORMONES. Daily exercise is 100% essential so I don’t mean sit on the couch, but instead try low intensity walking for 45 min/day. This is the perfect mix of HIGH OXYGEN + LOW STRESS. I now add in pilates (or restorative yoga) for muscle toning and stretching.
2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING –
Even if it’s only 20 minutes! I know this doesn’t fit everyone’s schedule but I woke up extra early if I had to and made sure that I got right outside for a brisk walk. This also exposes your eyes to early morning light which I talked about in part 2. Like I mentioned, my cortisol was testing low in the morning, which is why I was sluggish and craved coffee. This could be 2 things: a) my cortisol production in the morning truly *was* low because my circadian rhythm was inverted and I was peaking at night; or b) my total cortisol was actually HIGH but after prolonged stress I became cortisol resistant and it wasn’t getting to my cells.
Exercising in the morning tackles both of these common issues:
In terms of (A)…
Movement that’s in line with the natural sunrise/photoperiod prompts your body to release cortisol at the proper time and resets your circadian rhythm. When your circadian rhythm is inverted, you need to readjust it manually and the best tools are early morning light + early morning exercise.
In terms of (B)…
Morning exercise can get your cortisol down when it’s been high for so long that you’re developing cortisol resistance and it’s now “low” on a cellular level (the cells can’t “hear” it anymore just like insulin resistance). Back in the day, humans only engaged their fight or flight response in very particular scenarios, so we’re wired to have this quick period where cortisol and heart rate shoot up as we run from a predator or hunt for food. After running away from said predator (and exerting an immense amount of energy), we would come to rest and our cortisol would quickly drop and stay down for the rest of the day. The body is designed to lower cortisol levels like this only after that energy is exerted. Unfortunately, because we’re constantly stressed yet sedentary in our modern world, a lot of us are sitting around with too much cortisol in our system all day long, which is what leads to that weight gain (especially around the middle) that won’t come off. By exercising specifically in the morning, you can strategically plan the quick cortisol release to mimic your natural circadian rhythm, and then your cortisol is dialed down for the entire rest of the day so that you can relax and burn fat!
3. EXERCISE OUTDOORS –
Aim to workout outside as much as possible, especially in open spaces like parks or fields. With adrenal issues, you’re overthinking all the time. Your brain is scattered everywhere. You’re constantly analyzing things & trying to fix a problem because your body is physically in survival mode (you’re the person that notices the tiniest issue in the room and is thrown off by even the slightest messy or chaotic environment!) All of this thinking overactivates the HPA axis. By moving your body outside in open spaces, you free and relax your mind which allows your adrenals the space and stress relief they need to heal.