Exercise And Hormonal Health – Guest Blog by Dr Eva Detko
The real reason why exercise is such a vital part of any weight management programme
When it comes to weight loss and weight management, it is becoming more accepted these days that some form of physical activity is essential for the long-term success. This is absolutely the case but not for the reason people commonly believe.
Most people seem to think that the main reason they should exercise when they want to lose weight is to expend energy. This of course helps but there is a much more important reason why physical activity is a key component of any weight management programme. This reason is hormonal balance. Successful weight management has always been and always will be a hormone balancing act. There is no getting away from that. There is of course a multitude of factors affecting our hormones, including dietary and lifestyle choices, stress levels, sleep patterns, and exposure to toxins (dietary, environmental, medication). The more of those are taken into account the higher the chances of long-term success.
Striving to achieve hormonal balance can be hard work, as everything is so intertwined within our endocrine system. In other words, when one part of our hormonal system swings out of balance this tends to have a knock-on effect not only on other hormones but also our nervous system, immune system, and other systems and organs in our body. What is so great about physical activity is that it has a very positive impact on our hormones so it can really help us rebalance the body, particularly when other lifestyle and dietary factors are also considered.
So how does exercise help exactly? Exercise helps us reduce the damaging effect of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Cortisol is a normal part of our “fight-flight-or-freeze” response. However, chronic elevated levels of cortisol are not only very damaging to our organs and can lead to a variety of health problems, but also tend to effectively sabotage our efforts to lose weight. During periods of chronic stress, elevated cortisol levels are accompanied by a rise in insulin concentrations. This sends a powerful signal to our fat cells to store as much fat as possible and hold on to their fat content. This reduces the body’s ability to use fat for energy.
Cortisol-induced demand for blood sugar due to chronic stress encourages us to eat more. The result: increased appetite and food cravings (particularly for sugary and salty foods), increased body fat, and decreased muscle mass.
Chronic cortisol exposure also leads to reduced testosterone levels. This is more bad news for anyone trying to lose weight as testosterone serves many important functions in both men and women, including: increased lean body mass, reduced fat mass, improved mood, increased energy levels, better sleep quality, and improved sex drive. So yes ladies, we do want to keep our testosterone levels up. Any form of physical activity helps boost testosterone levels, whether it is cardiovascular or resistance training (as does sexual activity).
Other benefits of exercise include: balancing our thyroid hormones, mood hormones (serotonin and dopamine), appetite hormones (particularly leptin), as well as oestrogens and progesterone. All of these hormones have an important role to play in maintaining a healthy weight. So get exercising. It is about being consistent. Keep your exercise varied and incorporate activities that challenge you at both the cardiovascular as well as muscular level.
As mentioned before, there are other important factors to take into account, such as: getting your head in the right place, clean (anti-inflammatory) diet and lifestyle, as well as adequate sleep. Make sure that you make any changes at a pace that is right for you. Since you are a human being, you will not get it right 100% of the time. And that is OK. Beating yourself up when you have had “a bad day” is counterproductive as it increases your stress (cortisol) levels, which in turn interferes with weight loss. So what is the point? Just keep moving in the right direction and remember to praise your efforts when you are doing well.
With kind thanks to Dr Eva Detko
Dr Eva Detko Clinical Hypnotherapist /Nutritional Therapist Colon Hydrotherapist / Hypnobirthing Teacher www.dr-eva.com Twitter: @