Demotivational Exercise: Is Your Routine The Problem?

"Demotivational exercise" is a term I came up with to describe a set of poor exercise habits that actually cause us to feel hungrier, crave high calorie foods, feel more stressed, and gain belly fat. This type of exercise is demotivating because we generally exercise to be leaner and healthier, but it is incredibly disappointing when the exact opposite occurs to us after so much effort!

Any type of exercise form that keeps us at a moderate to intense activity for too long, too frequently is de-motivational. There's a harmful assumption out there that people should lose weight by doing moderate in highly intense cardio in order to spend more calories.

First of all, when we exercise we stress our bodies and cause inflammation. Inflammation causes our bodies to release cortisol, a hormone that causes us to store belly fat and feel a craving for high calorie foods. Therefore, exercising wrong can make us gain belly fat and crave junk food.

Second, cortisol also causes us to feel hungry. People tend to over-eat after working out because cortisol suppressed insulin sensitivity, which means that even if we do eat, the glucose never makes it into our cells. Therefore, exercise wrong can make us want to eat more.

Third, cardio tends to wear-out our joints and tendons because we are doing a repetitive motion. For example, when we run for 30 minutes we take about 3600-5400 strides. That's a repetitive motion! The final smack in the face is that they cause inflammation. Therefore exercising wrong can cause injuries and inflammation. Inflammation can again cause the first two problems listed.

I think it becomes difficult to be motivated to exercise if the way we exercise causes us to be hungry, tired, irritable, gain fat, and crave high calorie foods. Again, this is why I call it "demotivational exercise".

Let's contrast this with types of "motivating exercises" that are much easier to conduct and attend:

  • Yoga and light-intensity exercise over a long period of time (like walking or going for a light jog) actually relieves stress and causes us to burn extra calories without getting inflamed, stressed, and high in cortisol.

  • Strength training, though stressful and inflammatory, causes us to accumulate muscle cells which continue to burn calories at all times, and also increases the number of calories we burn when we are resting. Strength training is equivalent to investing for retirement - don't work your muscles to burn calories, let your muscles burn your calories for you!

  • Short bursts of highly intense activity, like sprinting, is like strength training for the whole body. High-intensity short bursts of activity also considerable increases our metabolism for hours after the exercise.

In conclusion, the way we can conduct motivational styles of exercise with regards to losing excess fat and improving our health should focus around:

  1. producing short term benefits through prolonged relaxed activity,

  2. gaining muscle to produce long-term improvements in our ability to burn calories every day, and

  3. producing long-term benefits through short, intense activity.

  4. avoiding short and long-term barriers to being lean and healthy by avoiding stress and inflammation, and exercise styles that tend to promote stress and inflammation.


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