Fitness Guide: Cortisol Levels And Exercise

Excess cortisol can lead to a disrupted immune system, chronic inflammation, and weight gain. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat these effects and restore balance.

You’re probably aware that cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands to respond to stress. It’s also one of the hormones responsible for dealing with the stress response in your body. If you’re physically active and constantly manage to stay on top of your workload, you’re likely in good shape. But if you’re not, it could lead to increased stress hormone levels.

Exercise influences the body’s cortisol production in numerous ways. These include: Making the hypothalamus more sensitive to negative feedback from cortisol through an increase in receptors, which reduce the output of cortisol in response to stress.

This blog post will teach you about cortisol levels and exercise. Cortisol is the hormone released from your adrenal gland in response to physical or emotional stress as part of a survival mechanism.

What Is Cortisol, Anyway?

Cortisol is a “stress hormone,” which means that releasing it causes the body to respond to stress. Along with glucose being used for energy, cortisol regulates blood sugar levels, increases the heart rate, speeds up breathing rates, and diverts glucose from storage in the liver or muscles toward release into the bloodstream.

There are two forms of cortisol – one is made largely by your adrenal glands from cholesterol and tends to be associated with stress (as mentioned above). The other is a neurosteroid derived from cholesterol produced in the central nervous system.

What Does Cortisol Do?

In general, cortisol is associated with stress and can be released in response to several factors, including fasting, infection, injury, or illness. Excess cortisol can lead to a disrupted immune system, chronic inflammation, and weight gain. 

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When the body produces excess cortisol, it signals an increase in the majority of energy-generating processes in your body. This includes fat and muscle cells, so fat burning is reduced for many people, and weight gain is common. You can do a few things to remedy this process: exercise regularly focuses on stress management, and get enough sleep.

It’s also associated with appetite control as well as increasing your feelings of happiness.

Side Effects and Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance

  1. Weight gain. Excess cortisol can lead to an increase in abdominal fat and weight gain. Cortisol works to reduce muscle mass, instead favoring fat storage for extra energy.
  2. Blood sugar imbalance. Your pancreas releases cortisol in response to high blood sugar levels to regulate your glucose levels. However, when the body is flooded with excess cortisol, it can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
  3. Immune system suppression.
  4. Inflammation and chronic disease. The immune system is constantly working to keep you healthy and help you fight off bacteria and viruses. However, when the body is flooded with excess cortisol, it can suppress the immune system.
  5. Hormonal disruptions. High cortisol levels can lead to an imbalance in hormonal production, which may lead to reproductive issues, difficulty conceiving a child, PMS symptoms, and more.
  6. Depression and anxiety.

How Exercise Affects Your Cortisol Levels

Exercise reduces cortisol levels. Several studies have found that a single session of exercise has long-lasting effects on cortisol levels.

The blood levels of cortisol generally peak about 30 minutes after you finish exercising, depending on the type and intensity of your workout. When you continue to exercise for periods over two hours, the cortisol level does not increase. This means that if you exercise consistently for a longer duration, the amount of stress it places on your body decreases per session.

If you don’t have time to go to the gym, there are other things you can do, like biking, hiking, and running. All of those exercises reduce the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. 

Exercise is also associated with improved sleep quality and better weight maintenance; this means that the more active you are, the better your body will react to the stress in your life.


Exercise is a great way to reduce cortisol levels, stop weight gain, and improve overall health. However, it’s important to remember that excess cortisol can cause many problems that you want to avoid. If you take control of your body and diet, you will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’ll post more articles on this later but don’t forget to subscribe for updates.

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