Living in a modern world composed of high stress, little sleep, and poor food quality has had a significant impact on overall health. Many experience regular and long lasting fatigue. Those who do have lasting fatigue frequently spend their days with little to no energy, having difficulty thinking clearly, and looking for ways to keep their levels up. Some may attribute this fatigue as a cost of living in a contemporary society. However, there is likely another factor at play.
The adrenals have significant influence over one’s hormones. Therefore, if this system malfunctions one can experience widespread issues including chronic fatigue. Exercise is commonly touted as a universal benefit. Although the grand majority of people benefit from regular healthy exercise, those with adrenal fatigue may incur damage to their health if they engage in physical activity. It is important to understand the interaction between healthy exercise and fatigued adrenals if one intends to resolve adrenal dysfunction and deficiency.
Adrenal Gland Basics
The adrenals are critical to one’s health and overall bodily function. Perhaps their most impactful aspect is their influence on energy levels. These small glands, located above the kidneys and roughly the same size as a walnut, control more than 50 hormones that influence energy levels, conversion of macronutrients into glucose, regulating fat storage, and more. Two primary groups of hormones are produced by the adrenals that interact with various systems.
The hormones known as glucocorticoids help convert macronutrients into a form that is useable by the entire body. In addition to aiding energy levels, these substances help regulate one’s stress response and inflammatory response of the immune system. Hormones that fall in the category of mineralocorticoids aid in maintaining blood pressure and blood levels. This is done through appropriate regulation of sodium, potassium, and water throughout the body.
It is easy to see how insufficient adrenal function could impact a wide range of bodily functions. Many health experts believe that up to 80% of the population is suffering from some degree of adrenal dysfunction or insufficiency. That may come as a shock because that means four out of five people should be diagnosed with low adrenals. Unfortunately, most people are not diagnosed with adrenal issues unless they exhibit extreme excess or severe deficiency in the form of Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease respectively.
Adrenal dysfunction and exhaustion can result in reduced energy levels and low cortisol. The combination of these two can obliterate one’s ability to take part in physical activity or deal with stress. Without adequate energy to go around, each part of the body begins to deteriorate and malfunction. In the same manner that adrenal hormones influence various systems in the body, adrenal fatigue can negatively impact numerous bodily functions.
Those with adrenal fatigue frequently experience the following:
- Chronic and worsening fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced appetite leading to weight loss
- Decreased libido
- Excessive or immediate exercise fatigue
- Food sensitivities
- Reduced cognitive function
- Mood swings
The hallmark characteristic of adrenal fatigue is low energy, which can make it incredibly difficult to be physically active. Exercise is a serious roadblock for those with adrenal fatigue.
The Dangers of Exercise
Exercise may seem complex for those without a chronic condition. However, for those with long term and energy sapping conditions such as adrenal fatigue, exercise becomes a potent puzzle. If exercise is done recklessly, one can cause serious harm to the body. Overcommitting energy to physical activity can result in adrenal crash. Aggressively taking energy away from critical bodily systems by over exercising can worsen symptoms and further degrade adrenal function. This results in a ripple of disruption throughout the body causing increased symptom intensity. With low energy levels, the body cannot spare any effort exercising. In the early stages of treatment, it is best to focus on energy conservation and maintenance.
Even though overexertion is dangerous, it is important to engage in activity that is appropriate to the degree of one’s condition. If one remains entirely sedentary, the body will have great difficulty restoring adrenal function.
Without pursuing healthy and appropriate exercise, those with adrenal fatigue have little hope of improving their condition. Only after one can regulate and maintain adequate energy levels for basic bodily functions should they pursue physical activity to aid in restoring the adrenals. Engaging in safe exercise promotes adrenal function, mood improvement, and energy levels.
Because adrenal fatigue, or any chronic condition, is specific to the individual there is no generic exercise plan that will suit each person. Therefore, it is critical to consider various elements such as duration, intensity, frequency and individual fitness level to design a program that suits one’s specific adrenal needs. As one progresses, exercises must be altered to match the growth or decline of one’s energy levels and physical abilities. The primary goal while exercising is to avoid over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. If it is overly triggered, an excess of adrenaline will be released which can cause an adrenal crash.
An effective Adrenal Recovery Exercise Program should include consideration and optimization of various elements. As with all exercise programs it is important to follow a program that adapts to one’s fitness level and health. Factors to consider when creating an exercise plan should include the following:
- Muscle toning
- Strength training
- Motion fluidity
- Body control
- Systemic circulation
Staying Safe with Adrenal Fatigue
Even though by its nature exercise is a physical stressor that damages the body in the short term, it is a necessary element for good health. This is also true for those with adrenal fatigue. Healthy physical activity is critical for resolving adrenal fatigue but it must be done carefully. Taking part in low impact and easily controlled activities such as walking, qigong, yoga, and tai chi can help one with adrenal fatigue move towards more demanding exercises. Only after metabolic and adrenal function has been restored can one begin being less selective of their activities. If one “jumps the gun” and overindulges in exercise, there is possibility for relapse. By cautiously and carefully engaging in appropriate exercise, those with adrenal fatigue can help resolve this debilitating chronic condition.