Stress from exercise and your work/life might not seem to have much in common. But the body will treat them both as the same by activating the sympathetic nervous system.

This “fight or flight” response leads to a bunch of changes, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and release of glucose from energy stores, all of which prepare the body to respond to an acute challenge. Cortisol goes up. And so does the inflammation.

All of these reactions are important when navigating challenges in the short term. But when the stress response gets chronic: shit show.

Any sustainable fitness program promising results needs to balance the two.

When the work/life stress is low, exercise stress can be higher. You’re more likely to respond better to higher volume and higher intensity training, within reason. And you can actually recover from it.

When the work/life stress is high, your tolerance for exercise stress decreases.

In most cases, the body can still tolerate higher intensity. But the overall volume needs to come down.

This is especially true when you’re in your menopausal years when the body struggles to handle high-volume training regardless of the other stress sources.