Why stressing about exercise won't help you lose weight

I'm really stressed out today and I'm not even sure why. I couldn't get to bed until one in the morning last night and my back started hurting (again). It's a chronic problem that unfortunately arises in particular on days that I haven't gotten enough sleep and am extra stressed, like today. I think what started to get me worried was news that jogging will make you live longer. Yes, that is kind of good news and I am excited to get back to exercise. But almost immediately after I started to calculate in my head how often and how fast I wanted to run to really help me lose a couple pounds before summer. Well, it turns out all of this stress about exercise is actually exactly the opposite of what I want if my goal is really to lose weight.


Read more ¿Qué más? Start jogging NOW! It'll make you live 6 years longer!

I have a couple friends who are hard-core marathoners. They love to run, run, run and never seem to stop. But running such long distances has unfortunately come at a price after one of my friends badly hurt her hip bone and basically had to give up running. Now she swims and loves it but, as I watch her, I wonder about all of the new stress she's putting on her joints.

It turns out I'm not the only person who's thought about what stress does to your body during exercise. Nutritionist Marc David, founder of the Psychology of Eating, recently wrote about his clients and how he finally figured out that the marathon lifestyle (along with not eating enough protein and fats) led to a lot of added stress on the body. He explains his "aha" moment:

An exercise physiologist friend explained to me that intense exercise can closely mimic the stress response.  Yes, aerobic exercise is great for us and has a long list on wonderful metabolic benefits.  But in the wrong context exercise can wear us down, elevate cortisol and insulin levels, generate inflammatory chemicals, and lock us into a survival metabolism in which we vigorously store fat and arrest the building of muscle.

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If you add to that the mental stress of worry about exercise (and also elevating your cortisol levels), then you're really in trouble. He goes on to explain that findings at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Texas, concluded that "low-to-moderate-intensity exercise for only 30 minutes three to four times per week was the best prescription for health, weight maintenance and fitness." Well, that's got me convinced! It actually goes hand-in-hand with the findings about jogging. So now, instead of worrying if I'm doing enough and trying to push myself to go harder, I'm going to go easy on myself and stop stressing myself out. Clearly it isn't helping me in the long run, anyway.

Do you do any kind of high-intensity exercise? Do you stress out about doing more? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via Jerry Bunkers/flickr

Topics: mental health  weight loss  running  gym