If you had asked me the same question a few years ago I would have definitely said; “No ways”! I was always the first person to preach about exercising every day, as hard as you possibly can – that “just push, no excuses!” mentality. I would train at least 2 hours every single day, hammering my body with loads of cardio, and allowing for little rest in between. Despite all my efforts, I stopped seeing results and began feeling swollen and uncomfortable. I couldn’t understand why all my hard work just wasn’t paying off! What was going on? I went on holiday not long after, and suddenly that swollen feeling disappeared, I started seeing all the definition I had worked so hard to get, and I felt amazing too! And that’s when I realised that I had been overdoing it at the gym – in a big way!
Believe it or not, since I have been practicing more restorative forms of exercise such as yoga and Pilates, I have never felt better! These exercises focus on connecting you to your body through the breath, which calms the nervous system and keeps you feeling centred and relaxed. I hear so many people talk about how they “magically” lose weight on holiday despite eating more than usual. And this is because their bodies are relaxed and at ease – their bodies are happy and so they don’t feel the need to hold onto excess weight.
So, is less exercise really more when it comes to weight loss?
Yes, indeed it is! Studies show that if you submit yourself to too much intense exercise, then it puts major stress on your body which causes your cortisol levels to skyrocket. This prevents your body from burning fat, and impacts thyroid functions. The thyroid regulates all hormones in our body, so if it is not working properly we won’t see results.
When I share my experience with my clients and advise them to tone it down, I am met with looks of complete shock and disbelief. Many are resistant to the idea at first because it seems contrary to weight loss, but after just two weeks of trying out the less is more principle, my clients are utterly amazed at the results. I truly believe when the body is well-rested and in a state of hormonal balance, you are better able to burn fat.
For those of you who work very long hours, I advise you to try restorative exercises such as a calming yoga session, Pilates, gentle stretching, a walk in the park and meditation most days or on the weekend, to promote oxygenated blood flow throughout the body, calm your body and promote relaxation. Even some gentle stretching for just 10 minutes a day will help your body to rest and repair. Rest is also essential for your body. A well-rested body is a happy and healthy body. I try to allow myself to rest daily – no matter how busy my day is. I make time, and prioritise my rest so that I feel more productive, focused and calm.
Don’t get me wrong – I know just how beneficial exercise is for us and I completely advocate that we should all be exercising to keep our cardiovascular system, muscles and bones strong and healthy. Exercise also keeps us fit and happy from the release of endorphins. So of course we need exercise – just not too much. Why do we feel the need to overdo it? Why push ourselves to the absolute limit? Our bodies are just not designed for that. What we do need is balance! Don’t be afraid to listen to your body. When it tells you it needs a break, listen up! Your body will love you for it.
Cara, is a health blogger, fitness enthusiast, nutrition coach, wholefoods producer, and founder of the Caralishious brand. You can find Cara’s online coaching services and meal plan options as well as healthy recipes, nutrition advice, exercise tips and offers simple and sustainable ways to obtain and maintain lasting health on the Caralishious blog.