Did you know that you there was even such a thing as the wrong type of exercise? Well, there isn’t because any exercise at all is going to be good exercise but there are certain types of exercise that suit certain types of people.
Growing up I was not a fitness freak, I did school sports like netball and I had been doing dance since I could walk but I never just went off for a run or to the gym. Maybe because it wasn’t such a big ‘craze’ as it is these days to get to the gym. (What a great craze though to better you and get out and do exercise)
When I first started my health journey I became a massive gym bunny. I’ve spoken many times about how I cut a lot from my diet including gluten, dairy and meat with the goal of weight loss in mind. All I saw all over Instagram was these amazing toned bikini bodies and I thought if I looked like that I would be happy with myself. (Turned out the wasn’t the answer but that’s not what this blog post is about). So I joined the gym.
Anytime Fitness had just open directly across from my flat at the time so I signed up knowing I would really have no excuse, it was literally across the road, you could see the door from our lounge window. I brought the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Challenge along with a strict ketosis plan and started my journey.
I was loving it at first, it kept my mind off everything negative going on in my life at the time and I was definitely noticing some changes in my body. I was losing weight but I wasn’t getting that toned bikini body like I was hoping for. I figured that I just needed to lose the weight before muscle could start to grow and get toned.
I got obsessed with having a toned body like the girls on Instagram and I would try anything to look like that. I ended up buying Steph Pacca’s workout and diet plan (after Kayla’s didn’t get me the body I was wanting) I was going to the gym twice a day; in the morning for fasted cardio and then after work for weights. I lived and breathed getting that toned body. After a lot of dedication and spending all of my time at the gym and worrying about eating, I got the body I wanted. That toned body never stuck. I would fluctuate, one day looking really toned and the next like a bloated mess.Turns out, I was doing the completely wrong types of exercise for my body and my mind.
Heavy weights and high intensive workouts put our body under a lot of stress and result in the stress hormone, cortisol, to increase. Putting our body under stress is fine until we are put under too much stress, all of the time. When cortisol is released into the body we switch to the sympathetic nervous system, most commonly known as the ‘fight or flight mode’. This mode helps us run from danger, think quickly and can be great in the modern world for getting creative juices flowing and to get us up moving a bit quicker.
Unfortunately, we are put under so much stress that our body stays functioning in the sympathetic nervous system. This results in blood and glucose moving to the muscles and brain constantly and leaving other functions like digestion and reproduction in the background as these are not needed for a quick getaway.
As you can imagine my body was already functioning in the sympathetic nervous system due to stressors from work, undiagnosed diabetes and from my own mind. By doing high-intensity workouts twice a day I was never letting myself relax and instead was adding more stress to my body resulting in cortisol levels continuously increasing and other functions to keep decreasing.
In the last year and a half, I have not attended the gym as often as I used to, I go maximum twice a week where I spend an hour max at the gym. I do yoga 2-3 times a week and take the dog or grab friends and go for walks. This is the type of exercise that my body and my mind love. My mind gets the chance to de-clutter, to enjoy itself and to relax. My body gets all the benefits physical benefits of working out without the added stress.
Our bodies need the perfect balance between functioning in the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system and the types of exercise we perform help this balance. This includes relaxes exercises like walking, hiking, yoga, pilates for example.
People who suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism are the perfect example of how exercise can affect our body. Those with a hyperthyroidism are advised to get involved in relaxing exercise such as walking, hiking or yoga as their thyroid is already running a million times an hour and in the sympathetic nervous system that they don’t need their exercise to enforce this system. Whereas, those with hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid and are advised to do HIIT training and intensive training to boost the thyroid and add some stress in the body for function.
Find the type of exercise that suits you and play around with different types of adding them all into your weekly activities. A friend of mine loves to lift weights and go the gym but she also loves going on hikes and to a restorative yoga class once a week. It’s about finding the type of exercise that works for you and not letting these toned girls on Instagram influence what you think is exercise or not.
Any exercise that you enjoy doing and makes you want to get out there and do it, is good exercise.