The old saying goes “you can’t have too much of a good thing” and exercise counts as a good thing, right? Regular exercise can help you manage your weight, make you happier by helping you release endorphins and lowering stress levels, reduce your risk of heart attack, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol, and help you build stronger bones and gain muscle mass. These are only a few of the benefits of regular exercise. But beware, there is such as thing as too much exercise. Over-training places chronic stress on the body. And in this case, too much of a good thing can actually be bad for you and your hormones.
Creates stress within the body
Cortisol - the stress hormone - is essentially good and actually helpful in small doses. It helps in muscle repair and recovery and helps to decrease inflammation and swelling in injured tissues. But sustained stress from over-training or constant steady state exercises (such as running) can elevate your cortisol levels and impair your insulin sensitivity. This can cause you to gain weight instead of losing it. Cortisol, after all, is also our fat storing hormone. Too much cortisol also breaks down our muscle proteins which is counter intuitive to why we exercise or strength train in the first place.
Getting plenty of rest in between exercise and rigorous training sessions is a must for hormone health. If you keep going at it without proper rest, a whole host of adrenal problems can develop, such as “Adrenal Fatigue” which can cause adrenal insufficiency. This can cause the adrenal glands to be so depleted that they stop production of crucial stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, altogether.
Other hormones that can be adversely affected by too much exercise is testosterone in men and oestrogen and progesterone in women. It can also affect your thyroid hormones. Testosterone helps build bones and increase muscle mass. Oestrogen and progesterone controls mineral absorption (particularly calcium), fertility, moods, appetite etc. Your thyroid hormones control body temperature, mood, weight, and digestion, among others. You see how an imbalance of these hormones can make your body go out of whack? Hormonal imbalances can cause fatigue (due to sustained high cortisol levels), amenorrhea (which can lead to loss in bone density and fertility issues), a weakened immune system (again due to sustained cortisol), and abnormal heart rhythms.
Everything in moderation
The key is to do everything in moderation and to take a sensible amount of time to rest in between workouts. Your hormones and your body will be thankful for it.