We all know exercise is beneficial for our health. However, what most people don’t recognize is that exercise can actually be a huge stressor on the body.

Unlike our minds, our bodies cannot separate good stress from bad stress. When we’re tired, stressed and overworked, vigorous aerobic exercise actually drives up cortisol, your stress hormone, and literally programs your body to store belly fat.

To make things worse, all those marathon workouts you thought were helping you, could actually be making you more exhausted & imbalanced. Crazy, right? I see this a lot in my practice. Women coming in, doing tons of cardio but not losing weight and they don’t understand why. They are usually stressed out and when I tell them they need to cut back on the cardio, it literally takes them a while to believe me because they’ve been so programmed to believe that more cardio is better.

The thing is, depending on your stress levels, overall health, duration and type of exercises, your workouts can actually become a stress inducer instead of a stress reducer. This is especially the case if you struggle with FLC Syndrome, aka “Feel like Crap” Syndrome and adrenal fatigue.

Not sure if you have adrenal fatigue? Get your Adrenal assessment now.

So, what’s the solution?

It’s all about exercising smarter… not harder or longer. 

Here’s the good news, new research suggests 20-30 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training is more beneficial for your health and fat loss than an hour of constant aerobic training.

Hooray! This means you no longer need to spend hours at the gym. Instead, get your workouts done in as little as 20 minutes per day, keeping workouts short and sweet and giving you time to focus on other things that bring you joy!

Ditch long cardio workouts! Get your endorphin fix and HITT your fat in as little as 20 minutes per day.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  It’s a technique of alternating short periods (usually 20-60 seconds) of very high intensity exercise with short periods of rest and/or low to moderate intensity exercise. Since the original research was done with 20 second intervals and 10 seconds rest I think this is a good place to start. The idea is you are pushing your body well out of its comfort zone for anywhere during that 20 second period. That’s a level 9 to 10 on the perceived exertion chart, also known as your rate of perceived exertion (RPE).1

HIIT workouts generally last only 20-30 minutes in total.

HIIT has received so much press lately as being superior to steady state exercise because research shows HIIT burns more calories & percentage of fat during each workout.

However, where it really shines is after your workout. Your metabolism remains elevated after HITT training, longer than steady state, lower intensity, cardio workouts, such as jogging.

3 ways to boost your metabolism, burn fat and make exercise a stress reducer instead of a stress inducer.

20 Minute In Home HITT (or Tabata workout)

Check out my favorite YouTube videos and search some for yourself so you can find the right instructor for you.

Weight Training

Weight training 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes is another type of exercise that is a stress reducer instead of a stress inducer.

Weight lifting helps build and maintain muscle mass, especially after the age of 40. Muscle loss or sarcopenia is one of the markers for aging. So adding a weight routine to your regimen can slow down the aging process. It boosts testosterone, protects your bones and keeps you strong & toned as you age. It has also been shown to boosts your metabolism for up to 72 hours after each session.

Most importantly, it doesn’t tax your body like long steady state workouts do.

Got Too Much Stress?

Try restorative exercises:

  • Restorative yoga, like Yin Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi
  • Qigong
  • Meditation

Did you know that lying on your back and putting your legs up can be a restorative as sleep? 20 -30 minutes can reset your stress response. Turning off your sympathetic nervous systems and turning on your restorative, calming nervous system. Learn about how to do Legs Up the Wall pose and its benefits here.

Give some of these a try and let me know how you do! I love hearing the feedback. You can reach me at info@drkatlewis.com


  • 1)Tibana RA, De Sousa NMF, Cunha GV, et al. Validity of session rating perceived exertion method for quantifying internal training load during high-intensity functional training. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3). doi:10.3390/sports6030068
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