Your body reacts to danger by kicking into an evolutionary-based “fight or flight response.” In this state, your brain releases two hormones: adrenaline, the hormone which revs up your heart rate and boosts your energy, and cortisol, which promotes the release of glucose into your blood and gives you a source of fuel. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, elevated levels of cortisol can actually be pretty dangerous over time; an excess could lead to threatening conditions such as depression, obesity, insomnia, heart disease, and indigestion.
One way you could start managing your stress and regulating your cortisol levels is through exercise. But which type is the most effective?
What to try
When you work out, the cortisol in your body temporarily increases and then returns to normal. Regular exercise has been found to decrease the amount of cortisol in your system, reducing your stress.
Although recent research is needed to further confirm, a study published in The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice suggests that aerobic training could have a significant effect on your body’s regulation of cortisol. Aerobic exercise, more widely known as “cardio,” pumps up your heart rate by shooting oxygenated blood to the muscles throughout your body. Along with lowering your cortisol levels, regular cardio could help prevent or lower your risk of developing conditions such as certain cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Where to begin
If you’re a healthy adult, the Department of Health and Human Services suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, or 75 minutes of more intense cardio. Try to spread it out, aiming for at least 10 minutes of activity at a time. To start, try going on brisk walks for 10-minute intervals. If you want to amp it up, turn your power walk into a jog.
Speak to your health professional before incorporating any new exercise into your routine. Stay safe, listen to your physician and listen to your body to prevent injury.