If you ever have one of those days when you don’t feel like working out but still want to push yourself, consider a “low-cortisol workout.” They are quite the rage right now—and for good reason. A low-cortisol workout is simply an easier workout that’s low-stress, which means your body won’t produce as much cortisol.

“Cortisol is a stress hormone in your body and supports many important bodily functions,” explains Domenic Angelino, CPT from Trainer Academy. “It’s possible to have too much or too little cortisol. Having too little cortisol is bad; having too much cortisol is bad. Your cortisol levels will naturally go up and down over the course of the day, but what matters is the average. If your average levels are abnormal, that can lead to certain challenges.”

Now, what does that mean for your fitness routine? We’re going to explain that and more while letting you in on what experts have to say about low-cortisol workouts.

What are the benefits of low-cortisol workouts?

Low-cortisol workouts allow you to reap the benefits of exercise without activating your body’s stress response. This type of workout can be beneficial when your stress is high, you’re sleep-deprived, or a combination of both. During this time, staying away from high-intensity exercise is smart, as it can contribute to your body’s stress response.

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“Workouts like flow yoga and walking can provide a sense of calm and peace while still physiologically benefiting the body. They can also help foster recovery from higher-intensity workouts,” explains Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer and functional training specialist from PTPioneer.com. “One big benefit of low-cortisol workouts is that you can do them every day because they don’t put a lot of stress on your body. Someone who struggles to stay active daily could benefit from low-cortisol workouts in this way.”

In addition, performing high-intensity workouts at a high volume or frequency can lead to overtraining syndrome. A low-cortisol workout can be a great solution to help you avoid gym burnout. In fact, many gym-goers on TikTok love low-cortisol workouts.

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One TikToker, Whitney Fransway, captioned a video, “< low impact workouts lately.” She wrote in the video, “Switched my HIIT workouts for more low-impact intentional workouts lately to help lower my cortisol levels.” Another TikToker and strength x Pilates coach, @maiahenryfit, posted a video of a treadmill walking workout (30 minutes, 9 incline, and 3 speed) and wrote, “POV: You found the perfect cardio routine for the girls that want to lose fat and tone their body without affecting their hormones or spiking cortisol.”

A 5-Step Low-Impact Workout to Burn Major Calories

Here’s a sample low-cortisol workout to try:

fit women doing outdoor cycling to lose belly fat in a week
Shutterstock

The exercises below are varied to help activate muscles throughout your body. Note that the list does not include resistance training, as resistance exercise is more likely to increase your cortisol level.

“This [low-cortisol workout] will help support most people’s training goals better than choosing just one type and performing it five days a week,” explains Angelino. “This is especially the case considering this workout doesn’t involve resistance training, meaning it’s easier for some muscles to get overlooked.”

  • Monday: 30-minute light walk
  • Tuesday: 15-minute light swim
  • Wednesday: 45-minute light cycling
  • Thursday: 15-minute light swim
  • Friday: 30-minute light walk
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Alexa Mellardo

Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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