Cortisol-Conscious Workouts Are Making Sweat Sessions Smarter

Photo: Stocksy/Aleksandar Nakic
The “rise and grind” memes may never stop on Instagram. But at some point, your body might. There’s a growing realization that relentless, punishing, long workouts aren’t always better—particularly if they trigger a wave of cortisol, AKA the stress hormone. Cortisol sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, so it temporarily hits pause on regular bodily functions and slows metabolism (it can also prime your body for injury, or signal it to store fat).

Translation: Those last dig-deep reps can actually backfire on you, slowing your progress toward a fitness goals. For this reason—as well as a mindset shift toward working out for your brain as much as your bod (thanks to growing research into the connection between exercise and mental health)—many fitness lovers are starting to take a more measured approach, turning to sweat sessions that are more hormone-conscious than hurts-so-good.

In 2019, look for shorter training sessions to become the new norm—30-minute classes are already offered by Peloton, barre3, Equinox, and more.

Just look at the trend of HILIT (high-intensity, low-impact) workouts popping up everywhere––from big gyms like Equinox and Crunch, to boutique studios like SLT, the LIT Method, and B MVMNT, which was an early adopter when the workout launched back in 2010. “At the time, I received a lot of backlash from the fitness community, but now people have come around,” says celebrity trainer Bizzie Gold, B MVMNT’s founder. Her strength training classes include a dash of yoga and even tribal dance to “sweat with intention,” as she puts it. This attitude of careful calibration—versus go-for-broke grit—is also leading many people to adapt their weekly workout schedules (by avoiding HIIT two days in a row, for example, or fitting in regular yoga classes) to be more conscious of what’s actually sustainable for their body.

In a similar vein, in 2019, look for shorter training sessions to become the new norm—30-minute classes are already offered by Peloton, barre3, Equinox, and more—as well as “cardio weightlifting,” which involves short, heart-rate pumping, strength-training classes (without long cardio breaks), like those offered at NYC’s Iconoclast Fitness.

So, what if hard-hitting workouts are your method for releasing stress? You’re not alone. But boosting your recovery routine is another way to avoid the dreaded C-word. (Not that one.) And when your foam roller wasn’t looking, a host of high-tech tools have arrived to steal its spot as your restorative BFF. From cryotherapy tanks (a favorite of Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake), to handheld massaging devices like Theragun and electrical muscle-stimulation dots that stick onto your skin—the gadgets are varied and next-level. At the same time, on the low-tech side of things, stretching-only classes and studios are also on the rise.

There’s a good reason for this: Skipping out on recovery and jumping straight into your next workout makes your body more vulnerable to injury, according to Eric Glader, co-founder and CEO of PowerDot (the company responsible for the aforementioned muscle-stimulating dots). “Advancements in technology have allowed us to bring a modality that was once reserved for those that have the resources and time to the masses,” says Glader.

With these tools making their way to your bedside table, and even cropping up en masse at your neighborhood gym, keeping your cool, cortisol-wise, will soon be easier than ever.

This is just one of the healthy-living trends we're predicting for 2019—check out the full list here!

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