Wondering why your metabolism is slowing down? Stress could be the culprit.

“When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release more cortisol, which makes you store fat in case you have to go for a lengthy time without food,” says Timothy Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at Deakin University.

“This build-up can occur rapidly in our most active fat cells in the abdomen – where it can predispose you to problems with insulin and diseases like type 2 diabetes. The release of cortisol can also affect hormones that increase appetite. “This can lead to comfort eating and make it hard for some people to control their weight.”

Biochemist, nutritionist and author or Rushing Woman’s Syndrome Dr Libby Weaver says stress also breaks down muscle by pumping out stress hormone cortisol, which is catabolic.

“This catabolism is one of the mechanisms through which cortisol slows your metabolism. Your muscles are made from proteins, and cortisol signals them to break down, as the body’s perception is that fuel is needed.”

Through an intricate process, the body is bathed in glucose which, if not used as fuel, is stored as abdominal fat.

“Essentially, too much cortisol can make you fat through dysregulated blood sugar metabolism, not just fat metabolism itself,” says Dr Weaver. This explains the connection between stress and cellulite. “Where muscles once were, fat can now be deposited,” Dr Weaver says.

So how to do get past this? Run.

Take it all out on the track, and leave it there.

“Exercise gives the body a chance to practise dealing with stress and then releasing it,” says Mandel. “It’s beneficial to challenge yourself in destabilising mediums (inducing stress) to cultivate your return to homeostasis. In exercise terminology this is known as core training.

“Also, during aerobic exercise – whether it’s running, a step class, kickboxing, calisthenics, tennis or dancing – you are pushing your body with fight-or-flight stress response movements. Then when you have finished, you let your body relax and recover, which is the relaxation response.”

The result – you become stronger in both the mind and body as you are able to quickly adapt and recover from stressors when they ambush your delicately balanced sensibilities.

Find more workout tips in our fitness section.