How does exercise affect your cortisol levels?

Exercise is supposed to release endorphins, help you relax, and have better sleep. But sometimes, exercise can be linked to higher cortisol levels and increase stress within the body. Here’s why!

Your body releases cortisol in response to changing stress levels and anxiety. Throughout the day, cortisol levels generally spike in the morning and late evening, but return to normal during other hours. In addition to stress, cortisol can regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, sleep and mood.

While spikes in cortisol are relatively normal, long, sustained increases in cortisol may indicate issues. Exercise causes physical stress that can lead to an increase in cortisol levels, and intense exercise can prolong high stress. 

Generally, exercise only leads to short term cortisol spikes and levels return to normal quickly after. However, if you are experiencing high blood pressure, weight gain, stress, irregular cycles, or an inability to sleep, it may be wise to consider changing your exercise routine.

Some experts also believe that exercising at night can amplify existing cortisol imbalances and make it harder to sleep at night. Exercising in the morning can give you a burst of energy during the day while still allowing you to sleep well at night.

If you are facing high cortisol levels, consider working out at a lower intensity, taking more breaks between workouts, or trying to incorporate restorative exercise like yoga to help lower your stress. Remember that results may not be immediate, but if your cortisol imbalance symptoms start decreasing after a few weeks, it may be a sign that you are on the right path!


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