3 Reasons You Might Need to Cut Back On Your Workouts

Sometimes less is more.

By Camille Styles

We all know that physical activity is essential to optimal health. Not only does it reduce cancer risk and improve cardiovascular health, it’s also just as key for stress management, anxiety, and depression. But based on my personal experience as well as latest research, it’s actually possible to work out too much. Over the last year I’ve cut back on high intensity training and ditched compulsive exercise in favor of a gentler approach that is more about listening to my body – and cutting her some slack when necessary. Think you might need to consider scaling back? Scroll on for 3 reasons to chill out on your workouts.

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You’re working out all the time and not seeing any results.

If this has ever happened to you, then you know that spending hours working out without seeing any physical results (whether you’re trying to lose weight, tone up or build muscle) can be incredible frustrating.

The science behind this phenomenon goes like this: when you do the same workout routine over and over every single day, your body becomes more efficient and actually adapts to that activity — and you may stop seeing any changes.

Think about switching up your workouts to keep your body guessing and give it more variety. If you always go hard on the treadmill or the track, swap out a cardio session for a yoga class. Or if you workout 7 days a week, try adding a couple rest days to your schedule. Just think: less effort, more reward. It may sound too good to be true, but try it and see how your body reacts!

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You’re not having fun anymore.

Challenging yourself is great – feeling bored because your workout is the same day-in and day-out is not. Life’s too short to hate your workout! I’m a big proponent of finding the type of exercise that you personally love, whether that’s a spin class that feels like a dance party, a peaceful hike in nature, or sweating it out in the gym. That said, even your most perfect workout is going to get old if you do it every single day without mixing it up.

And not only is it boring; too much exercise can manifest as physical exhaustion when your body is depleted due to elevated stress levels. Feeling tired at the end of a tough workout is normal, but if you’re dealing with constant fatigue that you can’t overcome, it might be a sign to add some gentler, restorative breaks to your routine.

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Your hormones are out of whack

I’ve become really interested in how our stress hormones respond to different situations, and findings are interesting when it comes to cortisol and intense exercise. As a quick refresher, cortisol is the hormone increases as a response to emotional or physical stress. For some people, doing tons of intense cardio (or moderate cardio for a long duration) raises cortisol levels too high. This can lead to the feelings of exhaustion above, and over elevated cortisol can even lead to muscle break down, bone loss, and increased belly fat. Much of what I’ve learned from this topic has been from Dr. Sara Gottfried’s research, which you can read more about here.

Another sign that your hormones are out of whack? Insomnia. Y’all know that I have to take sleep very seriously, and too much exercise can interrupt the hormones that tell our bodies it’s time to sleep. And don’t forget that not getting enough sleep is also correlated with weight gain.

The hormone fix? Embrace a day of rest to truly get rejuvenated. Research shows that “taking off” a couple days every week will not affect your metabolism or endurance – and may actually boost them since when you get back to it, your body will be freshly challenged (see first point.) Eat veggies, drink water, go for a walk, read a book, take a bath, use a foam roller. In other words, treat your body with love and kindness.

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A final note: if you’re one of the many women (myself included) who can fall into the trap of working out to “burn off” a big meal or has fear around gaining weight if you stop working out, let’s take a realistic look at these thoughts. Exercise is far less effective than food choices at actual weight loss – this has been proven time and time again – and if you workout only to burn calories, you’ll never be happy with the results.

Over the last few years, my motivating factors have transformed into working out for energy, clarity, and mental health, which can be achieved through any type of active movement.

Your self-worth is not dependent on how much you exercise. A day is not “good” or “bad” depending on whether you exercised. Moving your body should be a fun experience that also empowers you to bring your best self to the other 23 hours of your day.