Burn out? Why You Should Pause High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
By Georgia Hartmann
Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert
Burnout is a whole body response to prolonged, uncontrolled stress. It can be experienced as feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. 
Left unaddressed and unmanaged, burnout leads to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and overall low quality of life. It is also well documented that burnout is more prevalent in women than men. 
The problem I commonly see in clinical practice is that women just keep pushing. They are juggling many balls一work, household duties, children, relationships, ageing parents, the list continues.
They’re also trying to manage their own health, often starting their day at 5 am with a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class, because they’ve been told it’s the way to a younger body. And while they persist, they don’t reap the benefits of this type of exercise一often left feeling more fatigued and with extra centimetres around their waist.
You see, while exercise is incredibly important for mood, stress management, weight, hormonal balance, as well as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, the type of exercise you partake in is key to your success. [3-6]
Although HIIT studies have revealed favourable results in people with coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity, HIIT can also exacerbate fatigue and burnout. [7,8]
How so? The higher the intensity of training, the more cortisol is released in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that in healthy levels maintains blood glucose and energy levels throughout the day. However, in the presence of prolonged physical or psychological stress, cortisol levels are elevated and can have crippling effects, including fatigue, burnout, anxiety and depression. [9-12]
If you are experiencing burnout, the best thing you can do in terms of exercise is to avoid HIIT. That doesn’t mean avoid exercise altogether though. Recent research out of the Netherlands shows that physical activity is beneficial in overcoming burnout. 
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden suggest a combination of low, moderate, and vigorous exercise improves burnout, stress response, and feelings of depression. This may look like a combination of walking, gardening, swimming, and pilates
Other research reveals the combination of strength and flexibility exercises, such as that gained from pilates, improves burnout and overall sense of wellbeing.
So, tune in and listen to your body. Are you burnout? Do you need to pause HIIT and focus on more low and moderate intensity exercises?
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 Norlund, S., et al. Burnout, working conditions and gender - results from the northern Sweden MONICA Study. BMC Public Health, 2010. PMID: 20534136.
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 Koutsimani, P., et al. The Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019. PMID: 30918490.
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 Jonsdottir, I.H., et al. A prospective study of leisure-time physical activity and mental health in Swedish health care workers and social insurance officers. Preventative Medicine, 2010. 51(5). PMID: 20691721.
 Bretland, R.D., et al. Reducing workplace burnout: the relative benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercise. Peer Reviewed & Open Access, 2015. PMID: 25870778.
About the author:
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via: