When Exercise is Not Healthy

Exercise is not bad.

Exercising when malnourished, under-fed, overly stressed, and in a state of energy deficiency is what’s harmful to the body. For this reason, it’s important to understand when exercise is a benefit to the body and when exercise is a detriment. This way we can make sure that our lifestyle and habits and promoting health instead of depleting it.

If exercise is done when the body is in a state of energy deficiency, from not eating enough and/or exercising too much, the body will attempt to conserve energy by entering “low battery mode”. This includes a slow turnover of bone which can result in stress fractures, osteopenia, and eventually osteoporosis.

It also depletes the body’s energy to create hormones resulting in issues like amenorrhea. A prolonged state of amenorrhea resulting in low estrogen levels in the body can lead to heart complications from the arterial walls stiffening. Immunity is lowered, organs are put under stress, growth and development are delayed, metabolism is lowered, and the gastrointestinal system is affected.

If we exercise in this energy-deficient state, the benefits of exercise are reversed.

What is usually a healthy thing becomes stress to the body.

Below I made a quick checklist to help you determine what type of exercise you should do and/or if exercise is beneficial to you at this time.


This is your permission to go ahead and have fun with exercising. Do high intensity, long-distance, and reach your PR’s because your body is adequately nourished, balanced, and functioning optimally.


This is the time to be mindful of the type of exercise you do. Your body is a little bit run down but nothing too chronic to be worried about. These are the days you want to do a moderate activity with plenty of rest days between workouts. Make sure you pay extra attention to the quality and quantity of your food to make sure that you are staying adequately fueled for your workouts so that you can get back to a green light.


This is where most of my clients lie and most people who are struggling with an eating disorder. The body at this time does not have enough energy to maintain daily functions and the added stress of working out so this is a time for you to STOP, re-evaluate, rest, and restore your body. At this point, your body has been chronically stressed for too long and exercise will not be beneficial for you. Instead spend this time stretching, foam rolling, taking naps, and eating food.

Please note that you will not go from a RED LIGHT to a GREEN LIGHT in a matter of days. It will take time (weeks, months, years) to get your body back to a state where it is out of energy deficiency and will find exercise to be a benefit.

Another important note is that the light doesn’t go from green to red, you must go through a yellow light first. Meaning takes the time to rest until you start seeing your body get back to a balanced state. This includes your period coming back for at least a consistent 3 months, your sleep is deep, hair is strong and not falling out, your body temperature is warm and you find yourself not wanting to pile on 3 jackets when you leave the house in summer, you have a high sex drive, mental clarity, and strong digestion. Once your body reaches this state then you can progress to a yellow light.

Start walking, doing light yoga, and adding in some more movement into your life. Make sure to continue to eat well and heed any warning signs of energy deficiency which is your body saying, “you’re doing too much!”. Maybe you start weight training once a week and doing a spin class every now and a then but again, being mindful to not push your body too far.

If your body stays in energy balance as you add in movement and your energy continues to increase, then you can transition to a green light. Now green light doesn’t mean dramatically cut your calories in half, go on a juice cleanse, and start circuit training 7 days a week. We must always keep our calories at an adequate amount and take rest days to assure that our body states healthy.

This is the type of work that I do with my clients. I help them understand where their body is at and what would be most beneficial to them at that tune. Now I understand that stopping exercise and increasing your calories is a daunting task to those of us who are sitting at a Red Light. This is where coaching can be very beneficial. I help you move through this process with ease and understanding that the rest you are taking now is for a healthier future.

To sign up for coaching to create a good exercise plan please fill out the application here.





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