By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

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You have to do the correct Exercise when suffering from Adrenal Fatigue

Most people think of exercise as jogging or muscle building. While these are beneficial to general good health and promotes circulation and muscle strength, it is not the best solution when it comes to Adrenal Fatigue. In fact, wrong exercises may make Adrenal Fatigue worse and can trigger adrenal crashes easily.

Let us examine this deeper. The common misconception is that Adrenal Fatigue equates to low energy. A state of low energy can be the cause of the body’s inability to overcome stress whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. Because all functions of the body require energy, the most prominent outcome in those with Adrenal Fatigue is low energy.

At the root level, however, it is much more complicated. The loss of energy is due to the uncontrolled state of the body. Think of a car that is running low on gas, has a steering wheel problem, a sticky gas pedal that continues to accelerate at will, and a brake pedal that malfunctions intermittently. In other words, many of the systems that ensure a smoothly running vehicle are broken. The car is no longer under control, and unable to get you where you want to go. It is also a sure recipe for an accident. If you can correspond that to your body, then you are not far away from Adrenal Fatigue.

Our body, like a car, needs to run smoothly for us to feel well. This involves perfect synchronization of numerous organs and systems. In Adrenal Fatigue, the body is drained and low on energy, like a car running low on gas. Concurrently there are numerous imbalances. Many hormones are dysregulated, and as a result, in addition to having low energy, the body suffers from hypoglycemia (too little gasoline in the gas tank), feelings of being “wired” (sticky gas pedal that stays down), foggy thinking (driver who texts while driving), and depression (brake pedal is burned out). The internal thermostat of the body is broken and it is no wonder that the adrenals crash with each little stressor.

Overall Exercise Strategy

The key to a successful Adrenal Recovery Exercise Program involves a well thought-out strategy that helps you regain control of the core functions of the body. In the analogy of the car, it is not only about putting more gasoline in the tank. You can have fuel in the car and still be unable to get to where you want to go if the steering system is not functioning. The goal is a complete rebalancing of the internal systems, so that they can operate smoothly together to get you where you want to go hassle-free. This involves a total mind-body approach incorporating lifestyle, diet, mental, nutritional, and physical components. Exercise is an important part of the total recovery plan. If done properly, it helps the adrenals boost their function, and thus the energy state.

Energy State and Exercise

Exercise can make you tired with Adrenal FatigueThose in early Adrenal Fatigue (Stages 1 and 2) may only feel tired intermittently and tend to recover from any low energy state quickly. Those in advanced Adrenal Fatigue (Stage 3 and 4) are characterized by a constant low energy state and fatigue, only to worsen over time. Because the total energy in the body is finite, it is important to custom tailor an exercise program for the best use of limited energy resource for those with advance weakness. Over utilization of energy for exercise, even if it is good for circulation and has other health benefits, may trigger adrenal crashes. The right intensity, amount, and frequency is paramount. Many are drained of energy after exercise. The tendency is to avoid it. Total absence is also undesirable except during an adrenal crash. Others would do the opposite, forcing themselves to do more, and thinking that it is beneficial. Both approaches can be wrong. The key is not to avoid exercise totally, but to have a personalized program designed specifically for the level of adrenal function.

It is important to provide and have a consistent and maintained energy stream for vital organs to overcome low energy state. Any excess energy can be channeled into exercise as a healing tool. The amount of exercise must be adjusted to avoid over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and trigger adrenaline release. Risk of adrenal crash must be carefully monitored and preventive steps must be taken at the right time consistently. The right thing done at the right time will be of tremendous benefit. Conversely, the right thing done at the wrong time will make things worse.

Experienced clinicians will want to conserve energy as much as possible during the initial healing process. This means exercises that do not reduce energy but increase energy flow in the body. After a comfortable level of reserve is accomplished and built up in the body, a gradual progression is effected so that the body can reverse its catabolic state into an anabolic state where muscles start to rebuild and strengthen. This has to be done on a step-wise fashion deliberately and gradually. Doing this might help avoid one of the most common recovery errors among those self-navigating as well as inexperienced clinicians – over zealous exercise leading to retarded adrenal recovery.

A properly designed Adrenal Recovery Exercise Program needs to factor in the following technical components as well: breathing, muscle toning, stretching, strength training, motion fluidity, control, and systemic circulation. It needs to take into consideration the state of adrenal function (Stage of Adrenal Fatigue), the amount of reserve remaining, the biological constitution, age, metabolic issues, past medical history, and injuries.

As with any exercise program, always consult and seek approval of your personal treating physician prior to beginning.

Exercise Tool Box

The toolbox to affect this consists of six important tools. Each has its place and has to be deployed at the right time for maximum benefit. Improper use of exercise, whether it be too much, too little, or wrong timing can make Adrenal Fatigue worse, and trigger adrenal crashes, especially if the body’s reserve is low. The proper program allows the body a total healing experience, starting at the cellular level in the core of the body.

The body has an internal repair system in place. Our job is to systematically give the body the tools to affect that repair. Fortunately, our body is forgiving. The proper adrenal exercise can help the body return to its normal state of function.

The six tools are:

  • Beginner- focus on breathing and stretching
  • Intermediate- focus on toning and strengthening
  • Advance- focus on fluidity and control
    • Regular Yoga
    • Power Yoga
    • Aerobics

Here is a graph that shows how following a comprehensive exercise program in stages can help restore the adrenal function and energy:

Exercises for each stage of Adrenal Fatigue


© Copyright 2012 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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