Does Working Out Raise Cortisol Levels?

It’s a common question: does working out raise cortisol levels? The answer isn’t so simple, as cortisol levels can be affected by a variety of factors. However, there is some evidence that suggests that strenuous exercise can cause an increase in cortisol levels.


There has long been a debate over whether or not working out influences the levels of cortisol in your body. The hormone cortisol is released by the body during times of stress and can be damaging to both physical and mental health if it is present in excessive amounts. Recent research and studies have shown that intense exercise can cause small increases in the production of cortisol, but these levels are usually quickly reduced with rest and recovery.

This article will discuss how working out affects the levels of cortisol in your body, what to consider when designing a workout routine, and how to prevent excessive production of this hormone for better physical and mental health. We will also look at what other factors may contribute to increased cortisol production and how to manage them accordingly. By understanding the impact of working out on cortisol levels, you can work towards achieving optimal physical and mental wellness.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone in the body essential for managing stress. It is released from the adrenal glands in response to stressful or threatening situations and is responsible for preparing the body to fight or flee. In normal amounts, it helps regulate blood pressure, immune function, and metabolism as well as helps control inflammation. When its levels become too high, however, cortisol can be detrimental to overall health because of its effects on cognitive abilities and other physiological processes.

Cortisol’s release can be triggered not just by external stressors like fear or fatigue but also physical activities such as exercise. Generally speaking, cortisol levels will increase when an individual engages in moderate to vigorous physical activity. This increase is seen during both shorter sessions and extended workouts alike. Furthermore, studies have shown that cortisol levels remain elevated post-workout even more than 30 minutes after completion depending on the intensity of the activity. Even though a spike in cortisol production is expected with any form of exercise, certain exercises such as strength training are known to lead to higher increases when compared with aerobic exercises like running and cycling.

In summary, exercise does indeed lead to an increase in cortisol production mainly due to its involvement in triggering fight-or-flight responses; this spike indicates that an individual’s body is adapting appropriately to the physical activity being performed Whether your aim is improved health or performance gains from your workout routine, knowing how your body responds hormonally will be invaluable . Being aware of how different bodily hormones regulate performance can help you better understand how your own workout program impacts your health long-term – allowing you make better decisions about what works best for you and what’s going on inside your own body..

How Does Working Out Affect Cortisol Levels?

Many people exercise to lose weight or improve their physical health, but not everyone considers how working out may affect their cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone commonly referred to as the “stress hormone” because it can be released in response to stress. It is important to understand how exercise can affect cortisol levels in order to maintain a healthy balance. In this article, we will explore how working out influences cortisol levels.

Short-term Effects

The short-term effects of working out on cortisol levels depend largely on the type and intensity of exercise involved. Vigorous aerobic exercise has the most significant effects, usually increasing cortisol for about an hour following a workout session. Resistance training does not have as large an effect on cortisol levels, but can still increase them in the immediate wake of a workout. When it comes to longer-term exercise regimes, studies show that regular physical activity is generally more effective at decreasing cortisol than elevating it.

This means that while working out can raise cortisol levels in the short term, such increases are relieved in a matter of minutes or hours with no lasting effect. Regular workouts tend to reduce stress hormones over time, although this depends on many factors including types of exercise and duration.It is advisable for individuals looking to reduce long-term cortisol levels through physical activity to supplement their regimen with stress management strategies such as yoga, mindfulness meditation and other relaxation practices.

Long-term Effects

Regular workouts have been scientifically proven to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. Prolonged, regular exercise has been found to decrease the diurnal and nocturnal levels of cortisol, resulting in a lower average cortisol level over time. This regular reduction of cortisol can help prevent and alleviate some long-term side effects, such as heart disease, hypertension, excessive weight gain/obesity, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.

In addition to reducing the average level of cortisol over time, exercising also helps reduce stress-related spikes in cortisol levels. During intense physical activities like running or weightlifting, your body releases a surge of endorphins that act on the brain to produce feelings of pleasure and well-being. The release of these endorphins interferes with the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol resulting in lowered stress levels during intense physical activity—an effect called ‘eustress’ or ‘exercise-induced euphoria’.

By moderating your lifestyle with regular exercise routines you will be able to effectively manage your daily stress level as well as that all important hormone—cortisol! Both short-term (eustress) and long-term (lowered average) effects are beneficial for maintaining an overall balanced lifestyle.

Other Factors That Affect Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body, and its levels fluctuate on a daily basis depending on a variety of factors. Working out is just one factor that can affect cortisol levels, but there are a few others as well. This article will explore some of the key factors that can affect cortisol levels and how they can influence your health.


Stress can affect cortisol levels in a couple of ways. When we experience a stressful situation, our bodies release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as our nervous system triggers the fight or flight response. This can lead to an increase in cortisol levels as the body works to protect itself and prepare itself to face danger. Additionally, chronic stress caused by ongoing responsibilities or worries can lead to elevated cortisol levels over a longer period of time, upsetting the body’s usual cycle of hormone fluctuations. This can cause fatigue, weight gain, anxiety and a host of other physical and mental health issues. Learning how to effectively manage stress is essential for maintaining good physical health and emotional wellbeing.


Diet not only affects your general health, but it can also have an impact on your cortisol levels. Eating regular meals—especially in the morning—helps the body to maintain a healthy and balanced cortisol cycle. However, consuming unhealthy or inflammatory foods, such as processed foods or sugary snacks and drinks, can increase cortisol levels throughout the day.

Also, remember that if you are trying to increase hormones like serotonin or dopamine—which can have positive impacts on mood and energy levels—eating complex carbohydrates like vegetables is important. Complex carbohydrates help the body break down amino acids so they can make neurotransmitters more efficiently. By increasing these neurotransmitters in the brain, your cortisol levels should decrease as a result.

Lastly, be mindful of not skipping meals or consuming too few calories throughout the day. This can lead to overproduction of cortisol which could interfere with long-term weight goals (by sending mixed signals to hunger hormones) as well as fatigue and sleep disturbances due to erratic cortisol production patterns. When trying to make dietary changes for better hormone balance, it’s important to look at how frequently you are eating meals and snacks throughout the day as well as what type of foods you are consuming


Sleep is one of the most important factors in cortisol regulation. When the circadian rhythm gets out of sync due to poor sleep, cortisol levels remain elevated for much longer than normal, leading to a number of negative health effects. Insufficient or disrupted sleep can also reduce the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels, meaning that cortisol remains elevated. Cortisol also plays a major role in sleep quality and maintenance, so if your levels are too high they can interfere with good sleep. Therefore, prioritizing adequate good-quality sleep is essential for keeping cortisol at healthy levels throughout the day and evening. Practicing good “sleep hygiene” such as avoiding technology or intense exercise late at night, having scheduled bedtimes, and maintaining a cool environment while sleeping can help you get better quality sleep and regulate your cortisol production.


After researching the literature and taking a look at the studies that have been done, the evidence shows that working out can lead to an increase in serum cortisol levels. However, because it is not always associated with a rise in cortisol and other factors like individual response, muscle groups chosen for exercise, exercise intensity and type of exercise can play a role in determining how cortisol levels are affected.

In conclusion, the strength of evidence suggests that an acute bout of resistance or aerobic exercise may lead to a temporary elevation in serum cortisol levels. It is important to note that these elevated levels do not necessarily indicate negative health outcomes as this is dependent on the duration and magnitude of the cortisol spike. As such, it appears as if moderate intensity exercise lasting no more than 60-90 minutes can provide benefits without causing undue harm from raised cortisol concentrations.

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