It can be easy to think that exercise and how good you look and feel move along an upward curve. However, Sara Gottfried, MD, a three-time New York Times best-selling author of The Hormone Cure, The Hormone Reset Diet, and Younger argues that this is not the case. In fact, at a certain point, your lengthy exercise sessions or high-intensity interval training could end up working against you.
"Overexercising releases two key hormones: CRH and cortisol, both related to the stress response," Gottfried writes in Mindbodygreen. "CRH increases the permeability (or leakiness) of the intestinal wall as well as the permeability of the lungs, skin, and blood-brain barrier" while high cortisol levels may accelerate aging, block digestion, and decrease blood flow to the gut—all bad news if you're trying to maintain or lose weight. Though she notes that elite athletes combat these detrimental effects by supplementing with probiotics, omega-3s, and vitamin C, if working out isn't required by your profession, you may want to simply opt for moderation.
The middle ground that Gottfried proposes is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day, four times a week. She advises moving less but more often, incorporating simple movements—like using a standing desk or going for a short walk—throughout the day to keep from being too sedentary. As for hitting the gym or taking a class, Gottfried calls out Pilates, barre, and yoga as ideal workouts, because they work the whole body without putting it under excess stress. Instead, "these will stabilize cortisol levels, help with weight loss, and keep your muscles toned," she says.
On that note, check out what scientists have determined to be the best workout for weight loss.