You can’t solve problems using the same thinking that created them.
Someone brilliant said that (probably Einstein), and we’re inclined to agree.
But if that’s true, why do so many doctors and physicians prescribe exercise for adrenal fatigue?
You would think that an issue involving the adrenals, which is triggered due to stress, doesn’t need added stress from even more physical exertion.
Well, sort of.
There’s a direct correlation between stress and adrenal fatigue — too much stress for a prolonged period can disrupt normal adrenal function. But there are also clear benefits of exercise for clearing stress.
So if you’re facing some form of fatigue, burnout, or exhaustion, doctors’ orders are in: get more of the right kind of exercise for adrenal fatigue.
Read through this guide for seven of the best exercises for adrenal fatigue and learn how to supplement your workouts with additional healing strategies.
Exercise & Adrenal Fatigue - How It Helps
Exercising to relax — sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Dig a little deeper into the science behind physiology and psychology, and you’ll understand why exercise is so critical to fixing adrenal fatigue.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress very simply: It’s the brain’s response to any demand.” But, many times, that response can be too intense and last longer than necessary. Essentially, too much stress triggers a chain reaction that builds up cortisol levels, the master “energy” hormone released by the adrenal glands.
The build-up of cortisol means your adrenal glands make more of this hormone than necessary, without resting.
When that happens, we see that stress affects the brain in very different (and negative) ways than exercise does:
- It can shrink the prefrontal cortex, which is the part we use for memory and thinking
- It disrupts the regulation of blood sugar levels (often leading to diabetes)
- In a destructive chain reaction, stress can increase the size of the amygdala in a way that makes the brain more receptive to stress
- Chronic or toxic stress can disrupt synapse regulation and kill healthy brain cells
This is the kind of stress that eventually leads to adrenal fatigue. And this is the kind of stress that brings about other issues like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and insomnia.
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Exercise triggers hormones and neurotransmitters in our body and brain that actually help balance the body’s natural rhythms.
If you’re exercising for adrenal fatigue, you can expect positive results like:
- A natural decrease in cortisol and adrenaline, the body’s primary stress response hormones
- The production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators
- Deeper sleep that lasts longer (because your body really needs to rest and recover)
- Boosted metabolism that breaks down nutrients in a much more efficient way
- An increase in endurance, breathing, heart rate, and stamina — which are all key behavioral and physiological responses that can help you better handle mental stress
- Greater levels of wakefulness and mental acuity — in fact, research shows that exercise has the same effects on the brain as coffee
Before you reach for that morning cuppa, here’s what you need to know about adrenal fatigue and coffee.
Look at it this way:
The domino effect of chronic stress triggers responses designed to protect the body. But the domino effect of exercise triggers responses that put the body at ease.
And even though exercise is a form of stress, it’s physical stress, not a mental one. This means that any form of exercise won’t overload your body’s mental capacities.
Adrenal fatigue occurs in different stages. Check out our informative guide to adrenal fatigue stages to determine in which stage you might be!
7 Best Exercises for Adrenal Fatigue
To make the most of your time exercising for adrenal fatigue, you need some ground rules:
- Listen to your body — If you feel tired after 15 to 20 minutes of sustained exercise, either rest and get back to it or call it a day. You can always return tomorrow and improve your duration.
- Always warm up first — Failing to warm your muscles can lead to injury, which is just exacerbated by exhaustion related to adrenal fatigue.
- Mix it up and make it joyful — You’d be surprised how well bodies adapt, even if you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue. It’s a good idea to challenge your body and incorporate a more holistic approach by switching between exercise types. You’ll see positive physical results and you’ll get the benefits from a variety of different exercises. Yoga, for example, has very different effects on the mind and body than jumping rope.
Remember that you want to engage in exercise that calms your stress response, which feels good, boosting your energy levels and not depleting it more.
Let’s dive into seven different types of exercise for adrenal fatigue recovery and the duration of each you should start with.
1) Low-Impact Interval Training
Low-impact, or “LIIT” for short, is the stress-free sister of high intensity training. Now, high-intensity interval training “works” so well because of calls for short bursts of activity followed by rest.
An ideal HIIT session would include four to five circuits of aerobic and strength training moves. Each burst would be 25-30 seconds of movement followed by one to four minutes of rest.
In contrast, low-impact or low-intensity training would include the “beginner” or modified versions of the moves with longer rest periods. The session might extend up to 45 minutes, but that would include less time spent on movements and more on rest and recovery.
How to get started with LIIT
- Start small. That means one or two circuits, low repetitions, and small weights (or bodyweight).
- Commit to just 15 minutes, and you can scale up from there.
- Sustain the movements for 15-25 seconds with two to three minutes of rest between moves.
- You can do this two to four times a week and scale-up.
2) Brisk Walking
Taking a “brisk” walk means your heart rate is going, you’re moving your arms and legs, but you’re still relaxed. You’re definitely not out of breath — and if you are, just slow down.
Walking is a fantastic, low-impact exercise that boosts your metabolism, improves your body’s circulation, and is not as “hard” on knees and hips. The best part about walking is that you can do it anywhere, every day.
How to get started with walking
- Get yourself a pair of running shoes that support your feet but still feel lightweight.
- Wear clothing in layers so you can add or remove layers as you walk.
- You can begin with brisk walks three times a week, for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
- You can measure your walking progress by distance, steps, or time duration.
3) Jump Rope
Jump rope is a fantastic exercise for adrenal fatigue. Even hardcore fitness pros like boxers and other pro athletes rely on “low intensity” skipping ropes to warm up their muscles and get some good cardio in.
The best part about jumping rope is that you can start with as little as 30 seconds of light jumping. You can also buy a few different types of ropes: some are weighted so you can build strength, while others are light and fast so you can get your heart rate up.
How to get started with jump ropes
- Find the right rope for you — make sure the measurements are correct for your height.
- You can start with just five minutes of jump rope done three times a week. Jump in sessions of 10 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and pick it up again.
- Slowly increase the movement time as you feel more comfortable, but keep the rest time the same, if not increased.
There are so many benefits of yoga — and so many unique styles — that there’s something for everyone with this exercise for adrenal fatigue.
Though yoga is only a recent “trend” for those in Western countries, it’s been used for centuries in Eastern traditions. Yoga is a form of total body movement that incorporates stillness of the mind, meditation, intentional movement, practice, forms, and repetition.
When doing yoga as an exercise for adrenal fatigue, begin with yoga styles that promote full breathing, slow movements, and restful, gentle poses. Yes, yoga can get very intense, very quickly. These are usually “flows” such as the Vinyasa yoga style or the Ashtanga yoga style.
In the beginning, it’s wise to avoid these styles. Instead, build your strength, confidence, and consistency with gentler practices that focus on breathing deeply and connecting to the body. Yin yoga and Hatha yoga are the perfect styles to help you ease into yoga.
How to get started with yoga
- All you need is a mat and some comfortable clothing. You can also use some blocks and padded blankets to support your poses and joints.
- No matter what pose you get into, your breath should always be easy and effortless. If you’re breathing too hard or your breath is hitching, then your body is working too hard. Opt for modifications until you’re ready to scale up.
- If you choose Yin yoga, this style has longer sessions because you’re sitting in restful and relaxing poses for up to five minutes.
- If you choose Hatha, begin with a 20- to 30-minute session.
- You can do these forms of gentle yoga every day without stressing out your body.
Okay, so pilates hasn’t been around as long as yoga. But its benefits mimic the ancient art of yoga.
Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength, and, most importantly, helps you develop control and endurance. The unique total body movements focus on functionality, alignment, and intentional breathing.
Ultimately, you’ll build a strong core through pilates, including the abdomen, low back, hips and chest.
How to get started with pilates
- You don’t need fancy equipment for pilates at home — just a mat. Mat pilates is far more accessible and comfortable for those who want an exercise for adrenal fatigue that grows with you.
- Start with just 10 to 20 minutes of Pilates movements, three to four times a week.
- Take each movement as slow as you can. Yes! This is one form of exercise, like yoga, where the slower you go, the better it is for you.
6) Resistance Band Training
Resistance bands are a great alternative to full weights. They provide all the benefits of weight training — namely, putting the body against resistance and building stamina — without the strain you may feel when lifting weights.
How to get started with resistance band training
- Look for two sets of resistance bands — one light, the other medium, or heavy.
- Sub resistance bands in almost any exercise where you may use weights.
- For example, instead of weighted squats, place a resistance band around your thighs. Push your thighs apart and against the band until you feel some resistance. Maintain this tension while you squat and stand back up again.
7) Aerobic-Based Programs
Remember Jane Fonda? Okay, even if the spandex-glory of the 80s isn’t your playground, you’ll recognize aerobic-based programs from popular brands like Beachbody or trainers like Tracy Anderson.
Aerobic-based programs usually feel a lot easier and more fun. Those who love dance will enjoy this innovative way to get their heart rate up and burn some calories without stressing themselves out. Just make sure you have plenty of water to restore your fluids.
How to get started with aerobic-based programs
- Start with beginner aerobic-based programs like Zumba
- Go for 20 minutes four times a week or 30 minutes three times a week to start
How to Recover From Adrenal Fatigue - 3 Other Tips
Exercise for adrenal fatigue works best when you use it in combination with other strategies.
Remember that adrenal fatigue, while it begins with your adrenals, affects your total health and wellness.
Everything from your gut health to your sleep levels is affected when you experience adrenal fatigue. That’s why the right way to heal from adrenal fatigue is to aim for a holistic approach.
Tip #1. Choose an Adrenal Fatigue Friendly Diet
Diet therapy — which uses whole, natural foods and adrenal fatigue herbs to balance levels of cortisol — is a great way to support your healing.
Adrenal fatigue diets include:
- Whole grains like brown rice and buckwheat
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Lean meats like grass-fed beef and veal, or free-range chicken and turkey
- Dairy and eggs, which are good sources of protein for vegetarians
- Seeds and nuts like cashews and walnuts
- Selected snacks that help with adrenal fatigue
- Fatty fish like salmon and herring
- Healthy fats like avocado or coconut oil
- Low-sugar fruits like apples or plums
- Adaptogenic herbs like lemon balm or organic ashwagandha
Tip #2: Get Out in Nature
Studies show nature heals — in more ways than one.
Stress is not just our response to situations. It’s also our response to environments. That’s why getting out into calm, quiet, peaceful, and, most importantly, natural surroundings can instantly uplift our mood.
As a long-term strategy for stress relief, getting out into nature has the potential to change how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems function.
Not only do natural settings with trees, fresh air, streams, and animals soothe and restore our senses, but some of the most restorative elements for the body come from nature. Organic maca, for example, is a root found in nature, much like ginger. It supports natural energy, rebuilds vitality, and relieves stress from the inside out.
Tip #3: Use Natural Energy Boosters
When you’re first getting started with any of the above exercises for adrenal fatigue, you may wonder how you’re ever going to have the energy to stay committed.
The answer is actually all around you in the form of natural energy supplements. These supplements are designed to restore what your body is currently lacking — which could be anything from vitamin D to iron and more — while also using a handful of adaptogenic herbs to fortify the body’s natural resilience.
If you’re feeling particularly sluggish at the beginning of exercising, just opt for a natural boost from Pick Me Up, a formula supplement designed for those mid-afternoon slumps. Oh, and it just happens to be caffeine-free.
Known for its use in Ayurvedic healing, Ashwagandha has been used for over 3,000 years to help reduce stress. It does this by:
- Normalizing your stress levels and mood
- Promoting speedier relief from cortisol and adrenal fatigue
- Boosting your immune system with this powerful adaptogen
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Here’s the rub about exercise for adrenal fatigue:
You can definitely overdo it.
Remember, some stress is a good thing. Our body's stress response helps us focus, make faster decisions, and evaluate a situation to take the best action (usually, the life-preserving one).
But keep your body in this stress mode, and you’re dealing with toxic stress and adrenal fatigue.
So the same is true of exercise and adrenal fatigue. Using these gentle, relaxing, and low-impact methods can help you get back into the active physical movement while healing your adrenal fatigue.