How Overexercising Could Be Sabotaging Your Health Goals

Photo: Jessica Sepel

Jessica Sepel is a nutritionist and health expert who specializes in disordered eating. With a combination of self-care exercises, healthy recipes, and a fresh perspective on food, Jessica is able to help others achieve their wellness goals without negativity or deprivation. To learn more, check out Jessica’s class How to Stop Dieting & Learn to Eat Intuitively.

Just a few years ago, I was exercising intensely twice a day. And at the same time, I was gaining weight, and I couldn't figure out why.

I would visit my dietitian in tears, how could it be that I was burning off more energy than I was consuming and still unable to shift my weight?

Even now, when I find myself getting hyped up about a new exercise program or fun class at the gym and doing more exercise than usual, I feel more frantic and my body seems to hold on to more weight.

But when I exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day (no more!) and enjoy rest days? My body loves it. My clothes fit comfortably, and I feel calmer, too. Happy days!

This is why so many of us also tend to lose weight when we're on vacation, because we're resting. We eat more than usual and still lose weight, which is always confusing to my patients.

This is your body telling you that it prefers to be well-rested.

I harp on the devastating effects high cortisol had on my own body, and I believe that's the reason intense exercise never served me.

Studies have actually shown that intense exercise can increase cortisol levels, and high cortisol doesn't allow fat to be burned. It also affects thyroid function. While it's certainly not my favorite hormone, we do need some cortisol to function well. It's a difficult hormone to keep well-balanced, especially in this world.

But that's where the importance of rest comes in. I truly believe that a rested body is a healthy body. I commit to rest daily—whether my schedule allows it or not. I make the time and I make it a priority, or else my health suffers.

Now, don't get the wrong message here. As a health practitioner, I know how incredibly beneficial exercise is for the body. It's especially crucial for the cardiovascular system. It keeps you strong and fit, and it releases those happy hormones, endorphins.

What I'm saying is that exercise should be an important part of your routine—just not too much. Why do we feel the need to overdo it? Why do we need to push our bodies to the extreme? Our bodies were not designed for that.

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