When it comes to working out, it’s go hard or go home. You’ve got to give every workout 110% and dig deep for those last few reps… right? Well, not necessarily. Turns out, long, arduous workouts can actually do you more harm than good, and not just because they increase your risk of injury.
Going too hard during your workouts can trigger the stress hormone cortisol, especially if you’re already stressed. This sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, which slows some key functions in the body, including your metabolism and immune system. This can lead you to catch every cold going around and encourage your body to cling onto fat. This growing awareness that more is not always more has given rise to a new wave of cortisol-conscious workouts.
As the name suggests, cortisol-conscious workouts aim to give you an efficient session without triggering the body’s stress response. They tend to be shorter in duration (think 30 to 40 minutes) and veer away from high impact, high-intensity training styles like HIIT. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of HILIT (high intensity, low impact interval training) in gyms around the world.
These classes still achieve the same fat-blasting, endorphin-boosting benefits of HIIT, but without all the jumping and burpee-ing. In fact, your feet never leave the ground—instead, relying on equipment like water rowers and resistance bands to burn up to 1000 calories per class. The result is a super effective workout that is kind to both your joints and stress hormone levels. You can find HILIT classes in both globo-gyms like Equinox and Crunch and boutique studios like LIT Method in LA.
We’re also seeing the cortisol-conscious workout trend manifest in the form of hybrid workouts. HIIT Yoga is set to be one of the biggest workout trends of 2019, pioneered by US studios like CorePower Yoga in Colorado and Life Time Fitness. Offering a gentler alternative to traditional HIIT, it combines the heart-pumping benefits with stretching and flexibility aspects of yoga. Meanwhile, studios like SLT (Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone) in NYC combines HIIT with pilates, while B MVMNT is an innovative blend of cardio, dance and yoga.
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Should you ditch HIIT for cortisol-conscious workouts?
If you’re firmly committed to traditional HIIT workouts, all the more power to you! If you’re enjoying it and are getting the results you want, there’s no reason you should have to give it up. However, if you’re going through a particularly stressful time or are finding it hard to shift fat no matter what you do, you may want to consider one of these hybrid, cortisol-conscious styles of training.