Cortisol-Conscious Workouts

What in the heck is cortisol anyways? Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands that acts as “nature’s alarm system.” It’s the main stress hormone in the body that works with certain parts of their brain to control mood, motivation and fear. It also plays an important role in how your body uses macronutrients, keeps inflammation down, regulates blood pressure, increases blood glucose and controls the sleeping and waking cycle. So, what does this have to do with fitness?

Cortisol Levels and Immunity

Research has shown that putting 110% effort into every workout may be counterintuitive. Long, strenuous workouts may actually doing more harm than good and not just because of wear-and-tear on the body. Overexerting yourself in every workout can trigger cortisol, particularly if you are already stressed walking into the workout. Once the stress hormone is triggered, your body enters “fight-or-flight” mode, slowing down the metabolism and immune system, making you more susceptible to catching a viral or bacterial infection.

Cortisol Levels and Your Workout

Cortisol-Conscious workouts provide an efficient workout session, while being constantly aware of not triggering the body’s stress response. They have a shorter duration of about 30-40 minutes and work on a High Intensity Low Impact Interval Training method. The workout still achieves a moderate to high calorie burn with the benefits of HIIT, while not over-stressing the body or joints. Your feet will never leave the ground because these types of workouts rely on resistance bands, water-rowers and light weights to burn around 500-1000 calories per session.

Where to Find these Workouts

Cortisol-conscious workouts have been seen in well-known studios across the nation, such as Equinox, Crunch and LifeTime Fitness, as well as boutique-style studios. CorePower Yoga combines the intensity of HIIT with the stretching and flexibility of yoga, while SLT (Strength, Lengthen and Tone) combines principles of HIIT with the gentle and focused practice of pilates. If you can’t make it to a gym or studio, has some great workouts and tips for practicing your own cortisol-conscious workouts at home!

Written by GUADS Intern Lindsey with help from

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